November 2017 Family Friendly Community Guide

Upper Peninsula FIRST Tech Challenge teams take a photograph with their robots at a North Star Academy scrimmage. (Photo courtesy of Laura Farwell)


By Laura Farwell

The U.P. FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Middle School Robot Scrimmage brought a number of new teams to North Star Academy’s event.  FTC robotics has been growing quickly in the U.P. and middle schools from Gladstone, Houghton, Iron Mountain and  Munising experienced the first event of their rookie season, along with veteran teams from Bothwell, Houghton and North Star participated. This year’s scrimmage boasted the most advanced mid-season robots yet, and teams both scored well during the matches and learned where they need to focus in preparation for their state qualifying tournaments in November.

As FIRST robotics encourages teams to engage in community service and outreach, the U.P. teams collected donations to help those affected by recent hurricanes in Puerto Rico. The funds will be sent through United for Puerto Rico (Unidos por Puerto Rico), an initiative brought forth by the first lady of Puerto Rico, Beatriz Rosselló, in collaboration with the private sector, to  provide aid and support to those affected in Puerto Rico by the passage of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane María. One hundred percent of funds collected go directly to help those affected.

FIRST Tech Challenge teams must build a robot that fits in an 18-inch sizing cube at the start of a match—including a 30-second autonomous (pre-programmed) segment followed by a two-minute, driver-controlled period. Four teams, organized into two alliance pairs working together, operate their robots on a 12-foot-by-12-foot robot field. This season’s game, “Relic Recovery,” challenges teams to build a robot that can recognize a randomized color and knock a “jewel” (ball) off a platform, move and stack “glyphs” (6-inch hard foam cubes) in a crypto box (3-by-4 vertical matrix), grasp and transport a relic to a location outside the field, and then climb on to a “balancing stone” (platform) and balance itself.

The teams move on to state qualifying events in Petoskey and Houghton in November and December. Houghton’s event will be the first FTC State Qualifying Tournament in the U.P.

Westwood Shakespeare Company to perform Twelfth Night

The Westwood Shakespeare Company (WSC) will kick off its 16th season with improv and follow it up with Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

The WSC will open Wednesdays, November 1, 15, and 22 with improv—unscripted sketch comedy. Twelfth Night will run Wednesday, December 6, through Friday, December 8, with special Christmas encore productions Wednesday, December 20 through Friday, December 22. All shows begin at 7 p.m.

Twelfth Night is a classic comedy of words with the full range of mistaken identity and plays on words that set the tone for such comedies in all the years to follow.

“Even if you’ve never seen Twelfth Night, the show will seem familiar because of its influence on everything that has followed,” said artistic director B.G. Bradley. Company director Jamie VanEnkevort said the company is thriving and features a large contingent of talented newcomers along with some true veteran talent ranging from age 14 to 18 years old.

Tickets for all shows are available at 6 p.m. on show nights. Season tickets for single seats and family are also available at the box office and will soon be available at the Westwood High School office during school hours.


Great Lakes funding grants available to area schools

The Superior Watershed Partnership’s (SWP) Upper Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative announced its new 2017-2018 school year Great Lakes education grants for K-12 schools in Marquette, Alger, Delta and Schoolcraft counties. Individual grant awards can be up to $1,000.

Past program awards have supported projects including sustainable schoolyard pollinator and vegetable gardens, construction of traditional North American boats (later used for outdoor science-based field trips), as well as river and water quality studies incorporating salmon in the classroom, and a special U.P. rivers exhibit at the Marquette Regional History Center.

Funding is available for K-12 educators, but schools are encouraged to collaborate with community partners. Grants are intended to inspire youth to participate in academic projects that lead to stewardship within the Great Lakes watershed and serve as a catalyst for place-based service learning in schools and communities in the U.P.

The grants are also intended to encourage teachers to implement what they learn through professional development. Funding may be used to support substitute teacher release time, transportation, professional learning activities, supplies and materials, community events/presentations, partner time and mileage. Individual grant awards will range from $500 to $1,000. Projects will be funded through June 30.

The SWP received funding through the Great Lakes Fishery Trust and established the Upper Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative in 2013 to foster the next generation of stewards through hands-on learning in Alger, Delta, Marquette and Schoolcraft counties.


Helping with impromptu child care

Preschool children are coming in half an hour for child care. No problem. You’re always well stocked. There are many educational toys found in your kitchen. Open up your low kitchen cupboards and drawers. They are full of mostly safe playthings for children and hide anything that is not safe.

The first go-to toys are cans. Children may make low towers on the floor or higher ones if they have heavy shoes. Cans may be arranged to make houses and castles, or they may add folded heavy paper to make bridges.

If they have brought figures, cars or a few stuffed animals they can play raceway, house or action figure adventures.  The activity will give you time to wash the can cabinet you have been putting off and get down on the floor to play, too.

Random containers

Your other drawers may hold plastic containers and lids. They make excellent puzzlers. Are there tops and bottoms that fit? If you have some that do not make a pair, they can be used for sandbox, beach play or recycling later. They can turn the containers upside down and make a few drums using a wooden spoon to pound for a few minutes.

Empty the cupboards

Children can gather all of the containers and help set chairs and guard chairs next to the sink. Fill the sink or dish pan half way and add a few drops of soap and a cloth. It’s time for washing, rinsing and drying dishes for about 15 minutes.

While supervising the washing you can empty another drawer of wooden spoons, spatulas, other utensils and gadgets. Double check for sharp edges on items like potato peelers and set those aside. You can explain the purpose for some of the odd looking gadgets as you add them to the washing water.

While adding the items ask yourself, “Do I really need this?”  If not, out it goes into the donation bag. By now you should have cleaned, put away and culled at least four drawers, double dried these dishes and have wet children.

You can scoop up the little wet people, throw their clothes in the dryer and head for the bathroom. There should just enough time for a warm bath with a few of the containers you are not going to use.

Children have fun filling different sizes of containers. It’s similar to filling cups to equal a gallon.  Which containers will float? How many action figures will it take to sink a container boat? Teach children to check for hand and toe wrinkles. Then they will help decide it’s time to get out of the tub. put on warm, dry clothes and have a snack. For more on this and other topics see and Through the Seasons.

 — Grandparents Teach, Too

Third-graders learn about stewardship through song

The Superior Watershed Partnership (SWP) presented its most recent Great Lakes environmental education project which included third graders, a Great Lakes song, commercial fishermen, the Great Lakes Conservation Corps, a viral video and a community-wide pollution prevention program.

The young stewards sang for commercial fishermen, the Great Lakes Conservation Corps and over 700 other students and community members at a public concert.

The SWP, Music for All Kids and local musician Jerry Mills collaborated to provide this innovative environmental education opportunity.

The third-graders are also doing their own watershed research, stewardship and restoration work. Students learned about new approaches to stormwater management, green infrastructure and pollution prevention. They completed a community-wide stewardship project focused on keeping cigarette butts from entering storm drains and Lake Superior, and washing up on our beaches. They distributed SWP “red buckets” to local businesses to curb cigarette butt litter.  The third-graders then went to a  public beach and picked up cigarette butts and other litter with the Great Lakes Conservation Corps.

Music for All Kids, the Marquette Area Public Schools and the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative contributed to this project.


Kids love simple, easy, fun activities

Sometimes young children love the simplest activities made with materials around the house. Playing with old masks, redecorating them, or making new ones is a lot of fun for year-round play and especially when cousins get together at Thanksgiving. While adults are talking, an older cousin can help with these quiet activities.

You will need a medium brown paper bag, construction paper, glue, stapler, crayons or markers, scissors, small decorations like feathers, ribbon, yarn, and string. Also, look around for fun things to wear like hats, ear muffs, old shirts and other dress up materials.   

Paper plate masks

After talking with children about what they would like to pretend to be, help them color and decorate a white paper plate and cut out holes for eyes and nose. Glue on yarn for hair and staple pieces of colored paper to make noses, whiskers, or ears. Use string connected through small holes on each side to tie on the mask.  Younger children often prefer to hold a mask in front of their face with a tongue depressor or popsicle stick.

You can also use an old ski hat to make a mask. Cut out holes for eyes and nose, sew around the holes so the cap doesn’t unravel, decorate, and pull down over the head.

Paper bag masks can also be used. With a medium-sized paper bag, measure where the eyes and nose should be by putting it over your child’s head.  Mark the eyes and mouth. Take it off, cut holes, and decorate. Bags are especially good for robot costumes.

Making headbands

A headband rather than a face mask often works best for very young children.  Make a face or hat with colored paper, and decorate. Then measure a strip of paper to fit your child’s head. Staple the strip to the decorated part for a face-free mask. You can make easy crowns for kings and queens and super hero head gear. You might want to Google free coloring pages for animals heads to color and attach.

  If there are several children, they can act out familiar stories like “The Three Bears” or “The Three Billy-Goats Gruff” for a family gathering.

Sometimes the best pretend clothing might be just an apron, shawl, glasses or special hat. Children love to pretend to drill, hammer, and build while wearing ear muffs as ear protectors.  They can pretend to be TV, cartoon or story characters, animals, royalty, all kinds of professions, and superheroes with just a little help from you.

With your help, children can plan a project, use important small muscles in their hands, and develop artistic creativity, and role play with their imagination.

For more see and Through the Seasons podcasts and live.

 — Grandparents Teach, Too

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