Bass Museum hosts family art event to celebrate end of semester

For Miami Herald.

Ana Uran felt her 7-year-old daughter Ana Alcaza did not have enough exposure to art. So Uran started her own little art club for Ana and her friends.

Uran called the group the Goodness Gorillas and took them to museums and galleries, where the children looked at art and then tried to create their own.

For three years, Uran inspired the kids until she heard about a community outreach program run by Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach.

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Fitness, Health

Get a smart start to the school year with these fitness programs

For Miami Herald.


Making sure kids eat the right foods and exercise during the school year is a tough task for most parents. But, for one 12-year-old, maintaining a healthy lifestyle has become part of her daily routine.

Aisha Chebbi, a seventh-grader at George Washington Carver Middle School in Coconut Grove, started by giving up soda.

“Sprite was my favorite soda,” Aisha said. “Some people don’t know that they are really bad for you, they can cause heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.”

The next step came when she joined a before-school, hour-long exercise program. She arrived at school at 7:45 a.m. to fit the class into her school day, which began at 9 a.m. “This is where I came up with a lot of ideas about how to make kids healthier.”

Aisha wrote a letter to first lady Michelle Obama, telling her of two initiatives she wanted to develop for students throughout the county: “8 before 8” and “No Sugar for Breakfast.”

In 8 before 8, Aisha wants to emphasize that kids should drink eight glasses of water a day. Aisha carries a water bottle to school so she can hydrate throughout the day. The No Sugar for Breakfast program would make parents and students aware of healthier options for breakfast other than sugary cereals.

“If kids have sugar for breakfast, they are prone to have more sugar and fats in their diet,” said Aisha, who switched from sugary cereals to eating oatmeal or eggs, fresh fruit and drinking milk or water.

After school, she began swimming and playing tennis at a local park.

Obama responded to Aisha’s letter, encouraging her to join her Let’s Move! initiative. The Alliance for a Healthier Generation recently selected Aisha to serve as a Youth Ambassador on the 2014-15 Youth Advisory Board, which focuses on reversing the childhood obesity epidemic.

“When you’re more active and eat better, you feel better and you do better in school,” she said. “You’re more confident.”

Here are places and programs in Miami-Dade County for kids to get on a healthier track.

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A day of smiles at Baptist for children who need their faces fixed

For Miami Herald.

When Romana Akhter was just a couple days old, she developed a hemangioma, a build-up of blood vessels in the skin. It quickly spread, leaving disfigurements on her face, particularly her right side.

Now 19 and in her first year of college at Miami Dade College, Akhter is on her way to a new look, thanks to Baptist Children’s Hospital’s 13th Annual Day of Smiles. Four surgeons, with the assistance of nurses, planned to perform corrective facial surgeries on six children Saturday at the hospital, which donates its facilities for the procedures.

“I never used to talk to anyone,” said Akhter, “I thought I would have to deal with this for the rest of my life.”

Because of her family’s financial strains, Akhter didn’t think her family could afford to pay for the corrective surgery. Saturday’s surgery is free.

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Education, Video

Dance movement therapy is incorporated into preschool curriculum

For South Florida News Service.

By Crystal Chew and Matias J. Ocner

At Play and Learn Preschool, 10 children gather around a blue and red foam square matt during their afternoon creative movement class. They sit with their legs “criss-cross-applesauce” and are asked how they are feeling today.

“Don’t tell me with your words, tell me with your body,” said Jennifer Puig, 30, the creative movement teacher and certified dance movement therapist at the preschool.

Jack, 5, who is one of Puig’s students, starts to jump up and down with a bright smile and a fruitful laugh.

Puig hopes her class will teach children like Jack how to have a strong connection with their own self and body.

“If there is one thing that all students should take away from this [class], it’s the importance and value of body movement communication,” said Puig.

The director and teachers at Play and Learn agree that Puig’s class has aided students socially.

“Jennifer does a great job at helping the kids develop their awareness of where they are in space, where they are related to the other kids and where they should be in order to respect other people’s spaces,” said Rosa Fernandez, director at Play and Learn Preschool.

Puig who moved to Barcelona, Spain, in 2008 to pursue studies in Dance Movement Therapy – the use of choreographed or improvised movement as a way of treating social, emotional, cognitive and physical problems – moved back to Miami in 2011 and decided to teach what she had learned.

“She helps me, the teachers and the families,” said Fernandez. “She’s always there for you and we are very lucky to have her.”