Dig-It! Games

Digital Fun, Real Learning

By Margaret W. Carruthers

My 5-year-old son is obsessed with zombie-punching “bonk choy.” He talks constantly about planting sunflowers and feeding his “peashooters.” He stops people on the street to tell them about the freezing powers of iceberg lettuce. Some of these people think he’s talking about gardening. But he’s actually talking about a computer game.

Except for the fact that my son appears to be addicted to “Plants vs. Zombies”—and exhibits zombie-like qualities during and just after playing it—I’m not really opposed to the game. For starters, it seems to require a certain amount of critical thinking; he and his 9-year-old sister frequently argue about the best strategy for defeating the giant machine-wielding Dr. Zomboss. You could even argue that he’s learning a bit about ecological adaptations, population dynamics, and relationships between structure and function (e.g., the hard shells of “wall-nuts” vis-à-vis their ability to protect other plants from zombies). [... whole story]


Family Matters - January 2015

‘Blended’ Families

By Molly Brown Koch

For this column on “blended” families, I interviewed Beth Land Hecht, senior manager of volunteer services at Jewish Community Services in Baltimore. Working with the organization’s Jewish Big Brother and Big Sister League (she was program director for 10 years and now oversees its volunteers) has given Hecht a bird’s-eye view of the challenges facing remarried parents and their children. She prefers to call those families “combined” rather than “blended;” the latter suggests a smooth transition, while the reality is that for some couples and their children, integrating two families into one can be a bumpy ride over rough terrain. [... whole story]

B’More Healthy - January 2015

In Case of Emergency

By Joyce Heid

While no one wants to think a disaster will strike her community, the truth is the Baltimore area is vulnerable to all types of extreme weather that can leave our families in an emergency situation in the blink of an eye—or the blink of a light bulb, as the case may be. Think about it: in the past decade, many of us have been affected by everything from blizzards and tropical storms to floods, hurricanes, and even a derecho.

According to reports from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), each year thousands of Americans are affected by disasters. The Baltimore City Office of Sustainability reports that Baltimore has seen a 922 percent increase in flooding in the last half-century, making it more essential than ever to be prepared. [... whole story]

Game On! - January 2015

Eat My Dust

By Patrick Gutierrez

I’m not much of a racing fan—but I sure enjoy the idea of driving a car fast.

I had a bit of a “heavy foot” when I was younger, but these days, thanks to the back-seat driving—I mean loving reminders—from my wife and two young daughters, I pretty much have to toe the line when it comes to obeying the speed limit.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t daydreamed about attending one of those race-car fantasy camps, where you can zoom around a track at speeds well into the triple digits. Of course, the cost of an experience like that can also run well into the triple digits, if not more.

For those looking to capture a bit of that thrill, at a fraction of the cost, you can make your way down to Autobahn Indoor Speedway, just off Route 175 in Jessup. [... whole story]

Last But Not Least - January 2015

The Rest Is Still Unwritten

By Lisa Robinson

Seventeen-year-old Claire Wagonhurst lived her short life with grace and courage. She left this world on October 16, 2014. Claire is the daughter of my former colleague Marianne Banister Wagonhurst, who was a news anchor at WBAL-TV for 16 years. Melanoma took Claire’s life after a long and hard fight. It first showed up when she was 14, just starting ninth grade at Notre Dame Preparatory School in Towson. She went through numerous treatments, including radiation; after a while they thought they had it beat. But it came back with a vengeance, when she was about to start her senior year of high school this past fall, gradually stealing her eyesight, her strength—but not her spirit. Claire carried on during her illness, applying to colleges, going to dances, and, for the most part, keeping her friends “out of the loop” so she could just be Claire. [... whole story]

A Woman's Place - January 2015

Restoring Your Radiance

By Cortney Chaite

Last spring, Roland Park massage therapist Jane Marinelli and I started a program we called Restore Your Radiance. We wanted to create a totally new program, one in which women could gather to improve their health, lose weight, and gain more energy.

To accomplish this, we decided to take a three-pronged approach, teaching crucial skills to our clients that would help them reduce stress and create more mindfulness and happiness—all while increasing pleasure and throwing calorie-counting out the window.

I asked Jane, 46, mother of a 13- and 16-year-old, to explain what motivated her to start Restore Your Radiance, a eight-week program we’re offering in the fall, winter, and spring at the Rotunda in Hampden. “Most of the food-oriented programs out there end up leaving women under-educated and obsessed with counting calories,” she says. “I wanted to combine food education, stress management, mindfulness, habit transformation, and accountability and support in one program. I wanted to create a program that would fill the void and help women tap into their own body’s wisdom.” [... whole story]