Kids Count data shows Michigan has work to do

Lawmakers, educators, and professionals in the social work field gathered inside the Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Services Agency recently to examine the latest Kids Count in Michigan report, and look for ways to serve children better.

The annual data book is released by the Michigan League for Public Policy. Kids Count in Michigan Project Director Alicia Guevara Warren was also on hand, giving a break down of some of the key data points from the book. The book covers a wide range of data from health care access and coverage to education and food accessibility.

“We know that what happens within your family unit matters. We know that how safe you feel walking to school is important. We know that the education you get in school is important,” Guevara Warren said. “We know that the interactions with various systems, like going to the doctor, going to hospitals, those types of things, they all matter and they all influence kids’ outcomes across time and can actually carry into adult outcomes.

Guevara Warren said Michigan is ranked 31st overall nationally, 28th for economic well being, 29th for family and community, and fell to the bottom 10 in education outcomes.

“That’s really concerning for us,” Guevara Warren said.

However, in health care, Michigan achieved it’s best ranking, nationally, at 14th. Gov. Rick Snyder lauded the state’s Healthy Michigan program, which covered 610,000 Michiganders, saying during is 2017 State of the State address it should be a national model.

Kids in the U.P. seem to be doing alright in comparison to those in other parts of the state. The 2016 Kids Count data ranks Marquette County seventh in the state for overall well-being of children, followed by Houghton County at eighth, Delta County at 14th, Dickinson County at 19th, and Alger County at 31st.

However, that’s not to say everything is all right. There are plenty of areas where progress needs to be made. For example, 80 of Michigan’s 83 counties saw child poverty increase from 2006 to 2014. The report shows all three measures of economic security worsened significantly over the trend period, including 23 percent increase in child poverty statewide. Today, nearly one quarter of children in Michigan live in poverty. The rate of child abuse also rose, up 29 percent statewide.

The report looks at a multitude of factors in the lives of young children. For a look at data statewide, across the Upper Peninsula, and county by county, visit the Michigan League for Public Policy’s website at


Robotics team continues to shine at North Star

North Star Academy’s Lego and robotics programs continue to grow to meet our community’s huge demand for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) programs.

North Star’s FIRST Lego League (FLL) robotics team (grades 4 – 6) and three FIRST Lego League Jr. (FLL Jr) teams celebrated their inaugural seasons last fall. FLL and FLL Jr. recently embarked on “Lego League 2.0- SuperHeroes.”  Thirty students, including three all-girls teams, write scripts, build sets, and program action scenes for a Lego movie. The students participate in team-building activities that teach FIRST “core values.”

Coinciding with a Spring Fling Shopping Event fundraiser for the teams, North Star will host a public display of “Lego League 2.0-SuperHeroes” on April 29. Those interested in being a vendor should contact Paula Schneider at 226-0156.

North Star’s middle school FIRST Tech Challenge team, the Robogators, once again represented the U.P. at Michigan’s FTC state championship. The Robogators traveled to Battle Creek December 16 to 18. The Robogators finished middle of the pack amidst a competitive field of Michigan’s top 20 percent of middle school teams.

Roberta, the Robogator’s robot, features a catapult, a mechanism for collecting particles and reloading the catapult, mecanum wheels to drive left/right as well as forward/reverse, and a fork lift using cross country ski tips. Her modular design enables the team to work on different mechanisms simultaneously. This winter and spring the team is tuning up Roberta, learning more programming skills, exploring 3-D printing, and participating in outreach activities.

Mac Halley-Gluesing (MSHS), Ben Harris (NMU), and Adam Kall (NMU) mentor the Robogators While being role models for the middle schoolers, they bring extra fun and experience to robot building and programming.

The Robogators sincerely thank the following local businesses and organizations that directly supported them in state finals: Downtown Eyecare Marquette, Golder Associates, Cheryl Jackson/REMAX, Lower Harbor Family Dental, North Star’s PTO, Pomp’s Tire Service, Public Service Garage, and Book World’s Manager Nina Purtee. The Marquette Breakfast Rotary’s support, during both the regular season and again to participate in state finals is hugely appreciated.

North Star also thanks businesses and organizations that supported the Robogators’ fall 2016 season: Community Foundation of Marquette County, Rotary Club of Marquette, Marquette West Rotary Foundation, Econo Foods, Fox Marquette, Riverside Auto,  FORD, DTE Energy Foundation, Michigan Department of Education, Actobotics, Rev Robotics.

North Star Academy is currently taking donations of Legos. Donations can be dropped off at the school, located at 3030 Wright Street in Marquette, or call the school at 226-0156 to make alternate arrangements. More Legos creates more robotics and engineering design opportunities for students at North Star and in the community.

— North Star Academy

Spelling Bee regional finalists announced

Top students move on to U.P. finals

A handful of area students are moving on to the 2017 U.P. Spelling Bee Finals, to take place in Negaunee on Wednesday, March 8; each took first or second place in the 2017 Regional Spelling Bees. Those students are: Samantha Heikkila, first place eighth-grader, Marquette schools; Brandon O’Brian, second place eighth-grader, Ishpeming schools; Isabella Kantola, first place seventh-grader, Negaunee schools; Susanna Suardini, second place seventh-grader, Negaunee schools; Charles Henry, first place sixth-grader, Marquette schools; Morgan Carilli, second place sixth-grader, Negaunee schools; Elena Henry, first place fifth-grader, Marquette schools; Eden Hill, second place fifth-grader, Negaunee schools. The U.P. is split up into seven different regions (Western U.P., Eastern U.P., Schoolcraft, Alger-Marquette, Dickinson, Delta-Menominee and Copper Country). The regional spelling bees took place in schools and auditoriums across the Upper Peninsula, narrowing the field of spellers down to a few who will compete in the finals for the chance to take part in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.

Cinderella hits

Kaufman stage in March

The enchanted tale of Cinderella is coming to life on the Kaufman Auditorium stage with Superior Arts Youth Theater’s high school-age and under production Friday through Sunday, March 3, 4 and 5 at Kaufman Auditorium. The  musical is based on the Broadway production directed by Julie Taymor and the Disney film. SAYT’s production is directed by Artistic Director Dave Dagenais with choreography by Jill Grundstrom. Managing director is Jalina McClain.

Originally produced on television in 1957 starring Julie Andrews, Cinderella was the most widely viewed program in the history of the medium. As adapted for the stage, with great warmth and more than a touch of hilarity, the hearts of children and adults alike still soar when the slipper fits. The Superior Arts Youth Theater cast of talented performers features Megan Ludwig as Cinderella, Kees Gray as Prince Charming, Nicholas Conroy as the King, Karen Ludwig as the Queen, Caitlin Palomaki as the Stepmother, Amanda Diddams and Raquel Green as the Stepsisters, and Taylor Koski as the Fairy Godmother.  A large number of young performers are featured in the supporting roles and the show will be accompanied by a live orchestra.

“The talent level in this production is very strong, the artistic team is very talented and the work ethic of the youth, staff and volunteers involved is amazing,” Dagenais said. “Keeping with the SAYT tradition of staging high-quality productions, I know that our audiences will be very, very pleased with this show.”

Cinderella will be presented at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 3, at 1 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 4, and at 1 p.m. on Sunday, March 5 at Kaufman Auditorium. Advance tickets are on sale now: $15 for adults and $9 for students. Tickets purchased at the door are $17 and $11, respectively. Tickets are also available online at (there is a print at home option), by phone at 227-1032, or in person at any NMU ticketing outlet: Berry Events Center, University Bookstore, Superior Dome, or the Forest Roberts Theatre.

Homemade play clay provides hours of fun

About this time in winter, young children need to play with something new, and fresh. And, families are hoping, inexpensive, please. Like adults, children become restless and out of sorts without quite knowing why. They just are. Often they are like little growly grizzly bears.

Part of the solution may be making a very simple, warm recipe of play clay (dough) and sitting with the children to play, squash and pound, too.

Cheryl’s homemade dough

This play clay (dough) recipe takes about 15 minutes to make and doesn’t dry up for months in a freezer bag or tight container. It will stay fresh even longer in the refrigerator.

Here it is. Children can help measure the ingredients and stir. Place 1 cup water, ½ cup salt, 1 teaspoon or more of food coloring and 1 tablespoon cooking oil in a 3-quart saucepan with no heat. Mix well. Stir in 1 cup flour and 1 tablespoon cream of tartar. Cook and stir over medium to low heat until mixture begins to stick together. Do not allow it to become crusty on the bottom. Take out of the pan and cool slightly. Begin kneading like bread dough.

Young children can help at each step with safety precautions. After cooling they will enjoy kneading the warm fresh dough and squishing it through their fingers.

Kids love using all the traditional baking tools you may have around like rollers, shape cutters, cookie sheets, spoons, table knives, and cupcake pans. Hunt around the cupboards. Sometimes the best play dough activities are those when you have nothing but play dough.

Squash and pound

Encourage them to pound, make snakes and sausages, and to squash. It is a great tension reliever for all ages.

Children can pound the pile of play dough with both hands, in an alternating rhythm, good for both sides of the brain and the rest of their body.

Show them how to roll large, medium and small balls with both hands to develop bilateral coordination. Squash, and pound.

They can make some pinch pots using the dominate hand. Isolate the thumb and keep the three middle fingers together to turn a big ball into a little flower pot. This exercise helps strengthen the handwriting finger position.

Children can create little 3D animals, people and snowmen. They love to decorate worms, snakes, and creative insects. Medium sized balls can become segmented caterpillars. They also like making cupcakes from large balls and decorating them.

Roll out many long thin snakes to make a coil pot. Then fill with little balls for eggs, a bird or flowers.

Children can also make plates of food of long thin spaghetti, sausages, beans, chips and peas. When finished, everyone can squash, pound and store.

For more ideas see and live and podcasts.

— Grandparents Teach, Too

‘Afternoon of Music’ to benefit

Presbytery Point Camp

The 10th annual Afternoon of Music Concert for Presbytery Point Camp will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 19, at the United Presbyterian Church, located at 112 E. Euclid in Ishpeming. Musicians from the local area will be featured including piano, string, guitar, vocal, trumpet, and more. A freewill offering to benefit 2017 campers will be taken, followed by light refreshments in the church hall.  Joann Olivier, who will sing, has a personal connection to Presbytery Point, better known as “The Point.”  Her grandfather was Rev. Hamel who was an itinerant pastor in the U.P.. and the Hamel cabin is named after him. She has been involved many years in the concert benefits for The Point. Classic curbside parking, with front entrance accessible, behind the historic Mather Inn. To learn more about Presbytery Point Camp, visit or visit us on Facebook. For more information about this event, contact the camp manager, Caron Christopherson, at 869-0925.

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