Sunday, January 21, 2018

United Way Grant Funding Aims to Educate South Mississippi Kids

In the spring of 2013, approximately 24 hopeful organizations applied for United Way of South Mississippi grants to support early childhood education programs; available funds totaled $800,000. Of the applicants, ten agencies won resources to boost children into academic success; reading was the primary focus.

Read more: United Way Grant Funding Aims to Educate South Mississippi Kids

Successful Mississippi Coastal Cleanup Beautifies Coast Again for its 25th Year

Hundreds of concerned volunteers came together on October 19 for the Mississippi Coastal Cleanup. This event, designated for community cleanup of South Mississippi’s beaches and waterways, is coordinated yearly by the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources in conjunction with support from many coast charities, businesses, and governmental entities.

Although this year’s cleanup efforts were made uncomfortable by rainy conditions, more than 1,270 volunteers participated in picking up litter, plastic items, fishing line, nets, and other debris polluting the Mississippi Sound beaches, nearby streets and associated bodies of water.

As Public Relations Manager for the Department of Marine Resources and coordinator of the Coastal Cleanup event, Lauren Thompson was delighted to see civic responsibility was still at the top of the list for many coastians on October 19 despite the dreary conditions. Apparently, the people of the coast went above and beyond the call of duty to be good stewards of the environment.

“I was blown away by the number of volunteers who came out to clean, regardless of the weather,” said Thompson. “The community’s commitment to this event and to our environment is strong, and I am grateful for the tremendous support that the Department of Marine Resources receives from our sponsors, volunteers, and our partners with the Mississippi Marine Debris Task Force. They made the 25th anniversary of the Mississippi Coastal Cleanup an event to remember.”

Teams of volunteers gathered at various locations to pick up items that foul the natural environment. Important not only to locals and tourists, cleanliness of the marine environment is also vital to wildlife that inhabit the beaches and waters of the Sound. During the morning, volunteers collected 15,465 pounds of debris, including 75 tires and 956 bags of trash. Among that total were 119 bags of recyclable material, including aluminum cans and plastic items.

The rainy, but productive cleanup ended in volunteers treated to food by local sponsors and volunteers. Donors of food, beverages, space for serving meals, and other goods and services include: the Rotary Clubs of Gulfport, Orange Grove and Long Beach; RPM/Domino’s Pizza; Jones Park; Chiquita Fresh LLC; Coast Coca-Cola Bottling Company; Academy Sports and Outdoors; The Estaurine Education Center at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Gautier; The Shed Barbeque and Blues Joint; the Office of Congressman Steve Palazzo; Rotary Club of Bay St. Louis; Washington St. Pavilion, Bay St. Louis; and Chevron Pascagoula Refinery. A host of local companies and organizations also provided additional support and/or participated as part of the Mississippi Marine Debris Task Force Committee.

Sites luring the most volunteers--and getting the most cleanup attention--included Courthouse Road and Jones Park East in Harrison County; Gulf Park Estates Public Pier, Front Beach at Ocean Springs Yacht Club, and Pascagoula’s Beach Park in Jackson County; and Beach Blvd. from Pointset to the mouth of Bayou Caddy in Hancock County.

Old World Skill-Building: Locally Produced Television Series Aims to Create Self-Sufficient Kids

“Cooking Wild,” an educational television series aimed at introducing families to old-fashioned ways of living and eating, is slated to begin airing locally this fall. Produced by an occasional contributor to this magazine--writer and entertainer Chaz Mikell, of Gautier, Miss.--the series is shot primarily in and around South Mississippi. I spoke recently with Mikell about what children might learn from the program.

Why do you think "Cooking Wild" should be of particular interest to families?

I believe ‘Cooking Wild’ will have a profound appeal to families because it is real-life television, not reality T.V. The programming is created with traditional family values and is formatted to take advantage of its educational and informative properties as well as its entertainment value. This is not a program that parents have to view first to see if it is appropriate for their kids to watch. As Indian and Pioneer stock, my father taught us how to live off the land, hunt, fish, trap, plant a garden and harvest nature’s vast bounty. It is essential that we are now able to pass these skills on to others.

Why is it important to teach kids about old skills of living off the land? After all, in the modern world we don't need most of those skills.

In today’s fast-paced world, we are losing some of the natural survival skills and pioneer spirit that was so valued by our ancestors. It is true that we don’t need these skills as much as our forefathers because we can go to the market and buy packaged processed food and fresh produce rather than growing a garden, to a fishmonger instead of fishing, and to a butcher instead of having to hunt for our meat. But we need to pass along the skills of hunting, fishing, gardening, and wild foraging, among other survival skills, to our is best to be prepared just in case. In addition, we need to get ourselves and our families back outdoors and exercise more while enjoying the great entertainment value of outdoor activities. We all need to know the skills of a self-sustaining and self-reliant lifestyle, whether needed for survival or fun. You’d be surprised how much self-fulfillment you will enjoy when you identify an edible wild plant or make homemade jelly for the first time. These skills are something that your children can then pass on to their children.

What places along the coast do you plan to feature on your program?

We will visit many parks, wildlife reserves, estuaries and more, including Crosby Arboretum for plant walks and demonstrations, Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, The Gulf Coast Gator Ranch, Audubon Pascagoula River Research Center, and more. We will also visit cattle and goat dairies to learn how milk is bottled and processed into an array of other dairy products; a free range poultry farm; a game ranch where one can hunt quail, pheasant, whitetail deer, wild hogs and several exotic species of goats, deer and elk, and many other local sites throughout South Mississippi.

When and where can Mississippi Gulf Coast viewers see episodes of the program?

Viewers can go to our website at COOKINGWILD.TV to see a video clip and for other information, including broadcast channels and show times.

 Chaz Mikell is a musician, singer, dancer, actor, and accomplished writer of articles, poems, songs, movie and television scripts, novels and more. His entertainment career began at age four and he has appeared on T.V., in movies, plays, concerts, and personal appearances. Chaz was one of the first entertainers ever hired at Walt Disney World, where he worked while attending Florida State University. He also worked in movies with Producer John Hughes. After leaving Disney, he became a solo musician and comedian appearing in nightclubs, onboard cruise ships, and at other venues across America and the Caribbean. Chaz is now producer, writer, songwriter and host for his own outdoor/cooking show, “Cooking Wild.” Chaz is a Native American crafter who makes jewelry, hafted knives, spears, war-clubs, decorative gourds, and much more.


Kara Bachman is a writer, an editor, and a mom. She enjoyed meeting Chaz Mikell, who is a unique personality living on the coast.

Common Core Misconceptions

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) remain a hot topic in Mississippi. Many fear that the federal government is seizing control of everything, including what and how our children should think. Terms like “curriculum” and “standards” are tossed around in frenzied conversations, but what do those words really mean to education? How are they are used to reach and accomplish grade-level goals for our children? For the answers to these and more questions, where do parents turn?

The Mississippi Department of Education’s (MDE) website defines CCSS in simple terms and explains the reasons the state adopted these standards. It also clears up some of the myths surrounding a Common Core agenda, such as:

Myth: The Common Core Standards are federal standards.

Fact: The standards were developed through a state-led initiative spearheaded by governors and state school chiefs. The federal government did not develop the standards. Myth: The standards are federally mandated.

Fact: The standards are not federally mandated. Mississippi, along with 45 other states and the District of Columbia, voluntarily adopted the standards. The federal government didn’t write them, didn’t approve them, and doesn’t mandate them. Myth: The Common Core Standards are a curriculum that tells teachers what to teach.

Fact: The Standards are not a curriculum. Rather, they represent a set of goals that outline what students should know and be able to do by the end of each grade in English and Math. Decisions about how to teach the standards (e.g. curriculum, tools, materials and textbooks) are left to local school districts who know their students best.

The MDE site also provides a section for parents. This section explains exactly what students should know by the end of each grade level. Also available, free of charge, are publications entitled “Parent Roadmaps to the Common Core State Standards,” which are provided by the Council of Great City Schools. These can be reprinted and distributed to parent groups (but not commercially) without the Council’s consent. Becoming well-informed about the pros and cons of CCSS will help alleviate some of the fears and confusion about the Standards and how they are met.

Whether parents agree or disagree with CCSS, the reality remains that Mississippi has adopted the Standards. Therefore, why not educate yourself on Common Core expectations to better prepare yourself and your children to achieve those standards? By knowing the standards, parents are able to assess the school’s curriculum used to meet the standards. When questions arise concerning the curriculum, parents can approach the teacher and principal for answers, and together all can work together closely to reach one common goal—educating the child.

Why not go beyond the classroom? All Common Core State Standards (early childhood through twelfth grade) are available to anyone on the MDE site. Therefore, parents can implement supplemental “home curriculums” that target specific standards. To boost your child’s critical thinking skills, you can do simple activities with them, such as preparing a meal, making art, and reading and discussing a story. You not only became an integral part of their learning, but you gain some control over the methods used to help them to meet state standards.

In the end, isn’t that what it’s all about…providing our children with the best possible education?


More on Common Core State Standards

Common Core State Standards Initiative:

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development:

International Center for Leadership in Education:

Education Week:



Richelle Putnam is a freelance writer, Mississippi Arts Commission Artist/Teaching Artist, and Mississippi Humanities Speaker.

An Education in Gratitude

Do you find it difficult to be thankful on some days? Gratitude is described by most as a simple gesture toward another for an act of kindness; it is considered the polite thing to do.

Dr. Robert Emmons is the world’s leading expert on gratitude. As described in his book titled “Thanks”, Emmons’ research makes it clear that a thankful lifestyle takes an effort in today’s world. However, he relentlessly argues that gratitude should not be taken lightly. It is a powerful force that can affect life in a positive way, if it comes from the heart.

Unfortunately, many experience forces working against the choice to be content—and even thankful—for whatever we have. Emmons’ statistics tell us that by the age of 21, the average adult will have seen one million TV commercials. These moments of time are believed to play on our desires, cultivate feelings of need, and make it easy to abandon thankfulness for what already graces our lives.

Research by experts like Emmons is proving that gratitude is more than just a nice gesture. Social science research has concluded that being thankful is linked to vitality, happiness, self-esteem, optimism and empathy, to say nothing of making us physically healthier. This type of lifestyle requires an outward look, rather than inward reflections on personal problems, inadequacies and lacks. The result is that our focus changes.

Parents may want to instill gratitude in their children. Not as an obligatory act, but by teaching it from the heart. Check out these websites geared toward fun for children while teaching them to look beyond themselves:;;

If you prefer to make a difference locally, there are opportunities closer to home in South Mississippi. As your child expects Santa again this year, consider an afternoon of weeding out toys that no longer grab your child’s attention or clothing that no longer fits. Then take an afternoon or Saturday morning trip to Salvation Army or Goodwill.

The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree provides another way parents might teach children about the needs of others. Parents may want to suggest they put aside a portion of their allowance each week to help with a gift for the tree. The down-turned economy can take a toll on charities; there is no better time to talk with your child about your family’s blessings. It’s not too early to start teaching that there are other children who are not as fortunate.

Dr. Emmons makes a sobering statement in his book: “We all begin life dependent on others, and most of us end life dependent on others. In between, we have roughly sixty years or so of unacknowledged dependency.” It is during these years that generosity—in the form of kind acts from others—might make our day or show us light at the end of the tunnel. In turn, when these acts are acknowledged, it will probably impact others in return.

Antje Hill is based in Collins, Ms. She spends her time writing and speaking on marriage and parenting.

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