Honor Dads and Cheer Grads

(Family Features) With the end of the school year and summer fast approaching, gifting occasions are plentiful. Some events – graduations and Father’s Day, in particular – can be a challenge when it comes to finding the perfect present.

Resist the temptation to throw some cash or a gift card in an envelope and instead peruse these ideas for inspiration for gifts that your dad or new graduate will actually use and appreciate.

Find more gift ideas for dads and grads at officedepot.com.


Gifts for Dads

Upgrade the Man Cave
Keep dad’s space cool with smart home technology that can control features such as temperature, lighting and music volume. Many devices and apps allow for themed settings, so dad can instantaneously turn up the lights and sound to catch the game on his big screen, or relax while taking a leisurely weekend nap.

Gadgets Galore
If dad still works on a desktop, help him upgrade his outdated tech toys. Go in on a big present with your siblings and splurge on dad with a top-selling 2-in-1 laptop, such as a Dell Inspiron 13, which is available at Office Depot and OfficeMax locations. The stores offer a broad assortment of tablets and laptops to get him going with the latest in portable technology.

Out of This World
If you love playing video games with your dad, take it to the next level this Father’s Day with a virtual reality headset that gives new meaning to getting into the game. These devices allow for 360 degree immersive viewing of more than 400 virtual reality apps available for Android and iOS devices, as well as many popular video content providers.

Tech for Every Day
So much of people’s lives revolve around technology, and dads are no exception. Help him stay up-to-date with simple yet convenient and effective options for his smartphone like rechargeable power banks, cellphone cases, screen protectors and charging accessories. For a less tech-savvy dad, start small with an option like Bluetooth headphones.

Share Memories
A new digital camera is the perfect way to let dad capture every moment together with the family. If he as an ample photo library just waiting to be shared, create a work of art with a personalized canvas print he can proudly display in his office or favorite room in the house.


Goodies for Grads

Show Some Spirit
Graduating doesn’t have to mean leaving everything about college behind. Let your grad proudly represent his or her alma mater with university-branded items for their desk at the office or at home. With an assortment of spirited options, Office Depot offers everything from USB drives and mouse pads to planners and notebooks.

Planning Ahead
Starting a new job means taking on new responsibilities and learning the ropes at a new company. Help your graduate stay ahead of the learning curve and on top of important meetings with a smart, new planner that makes organizing that extra-busy schedule a cinch.

Photos on the Go
If your grad is an avid photographer or even just enjoys the occasional commemorative photo with the family, consider a gift that gives him or her the ability to immediately enjoy personal artwork. While looking at photography on a phone can be fun, a device like the HP Sprocket Wireless Photo Printer, which can fit in a pocket, gives the option to print a 2-by-3-inch photo in as little as 40 seconds so favorite photos don’t get lost in cyberspace.

Sign Up for Success
Today’s students probably spent most of their college years tapping keys to take notes and complete important tasks. While those habits will transition well to the corporate world, there are still plenty of reasons to have some quality pens available. Whether jotting quick notes while on a call or signing important documents, the job is more enjoyable with a high-quality pen in hand.

Take Initiative
When starting a new job, a newbie needs to show just how much he or she is engaged in the work. Give them the opportunity to showcase value by documenting brainstorms, meeting notes and important deadlines in a discbound leather notebook, such as the TUL Note-taking system. Bonus: you can even pick out the paper inserts that best fit his or her personal style.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (father and son on graduation day)

Office Depot

Students Prosper from STEM Education

(Family Features) Education is particularly critical for today’s students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, as the number of jobs with an emphasis in STEM is expected to grow significantly over the next 10 years, according to the National Science and Math Initiative.

With the right funding, schools across the country are putting an emphasis on STEM education and looking for new ways to make a difference in the lives of their students and their communities. For Rochelle Middle School in Rochelle, Illinois, a $25,000 grant from the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, enabled the school to enhance its science curriculum by exposing students to STEM-related career opportunities and preparing students for the workforce. The program included the purchase of a 3D printer to introduce students to the technology and bring their designs and ideas to life.

Shortly after the program began, the students learned about a local farmer who lost his arm in an accident while working in the field and they began working on a program to use the 3D printer to build a fully-functioning prosthesis for him.   

Other Americas Farmers Grow Rural Education grants have helped schools expand their science curriculum by building greenhouses, continuing a remote-operated-vehicle science program, developing a livestock learning laboratory on a high school campus and others.

“STEM education is a vital foundation for the future of students and communities,” said Al Mitchell, Monsanto Fund president. “With the support of local farmers, we are proud to provide resources to engage and excite students in their STEM educations, and help them understand practical applications of their studies.”

Since starting the program, Rochelle Middle School’s parents and teachers have noticed a change in students, as they seem more engaged and excited to learn. Many even stay after school for an independent study course with their science teacher.

“The grant helped enhance our STEM offering to students and show them what their futures could hold,” said Vic Worthington, Rochelle Middle School science instructor. “In middle school, it’s easy for these students to go to school each day, but not understand the full picture of possibilities of their futures. Through this program, schools are able to put possibilities in front of students they couldn’t have previously dreamed of.”

The Grow Rural Education program is seeking nominations from farmers through April 1, 2017, to help provide rural public schools with funding for STEM projects. Since the program began partnering with farmers in 2011, more than $11 million has been awarded to help rural schools in need. To learn more about the program or how farmers can nominate a school near them, visit GrowRuralEducation.com.

Monsanto Fund

Being the light in the lives of others

The true meaning of Christmas should not be about receiving gifts. It should be about giving.

Sure, giving could include gifts, but, even then, it shouldn’t be done with the expectation of receiving a gift in return.

Ideally, the giving should be completely selfless, even void of monetary value.

Giving of your time will have a much larger impact than racking up more and more credit card debit in an attempt to purchase the perfect present.

In thinking about giving, my mind takes me to my grandfather, Roland Vogts. Before he died, he lived in a farmhouse north of Canton, Kansas, with my grandmother Maxine. He always gave of himself, especially when it came to Christmas time.

He was instrumental in Canton’s elaborate Christmas light display of my youth, and he also decorated his home.

Many people put lights up around their house, but Grandpa Roland took it to an entirely different level. He strung thousands upon thousands of lights each year, and he rarely repeated the same configuration from season to season. People would drive from miles around to perform a slow procession past the house and into the roundabout driveway before heading back home. It was magical.

He gave of his time to give joy to others, and it took a significant amount of time.

He sometimes began preparing and hanging lights a couple months in advance, always with the goal of turning on the power shortly after Thanksgiving. The lights he used weren’t the style of today. His were the kind that if one bulb was out, the entire strand went dark. When this would happen, he would meticulously check each bulb until he found the culprit and replaced it.

Grandpa Roland was an artist of illumination. He even hand-crafted decorative pieces — such as a wreaths and angels — which had numerous holes drilled in them so lights could be inserted and the pieces could glow to life.

Grandma Maxine still has a picture of her and grandpa’s house all lit up hanging in her current home. Every time I visit, I am always drawn to that image. It brings back all sorts of memories and senses of wonder.

As is quickly becoming a tradition for my wife and I, I have decorated my house in an attempt to try to emulate, even on a much smaller scale, the magic Grandpa Roland created with tiny lightbulbs.

Over the course of this year, my wife and I moved into a bigger house. This left us without enough lights. After several trips to the store, however, the house is all decked out and lit up to my liking . . . for now.

I have bigger dreams for the future. I want to continually add more and more lights to really make our house stand out.

Being a bit of a technophile, I want to eventually turn my street into a destination for other families to come and enjoy, just like Grandpa Roland did, but with an injection of tech. I’ve long be fascinated with the Christmas light displays that are programmed to music, played via a radio transmitter.

Until then, I simply hope grandpa can look down upon me and be proud.

Not just proud of my Christmas lights, but proud of the fact I am doing something, even something so seemingly insignificant as decorating my house, that is for others to enjoy and doesn’t inherently benefit me.

This Christmas, I hope to give more than I receive, and I hope to be the light in the lives of others.

I hope you will too.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a wonderfully Happy New Year.

10 Steps to a Better Backyard

(Family Features) Follow these simple steps for building your dream escape – right in your own backyard. For more inspiration and ideas, visit Trex.com.

Discover digital inspiration. Take advantage of online resources, such as DIY blogs and home improvement websites, to spark your creativity. Browse social platforms, like Pinterest and Houzz, and peruse online photo galleries to see what others have done to get inspired and help bring your vision to life.

Enlist an expert. Much like you might consult an interior designer, deck contractors can help make your dream outdoor space become a reality. Unless you plan to build the deck yourself, the first item on your to-do list should be hiring a contractor. When researching contractors, look for someone that specializes in decks – conduct interviews, review portfolios and gather references.

Make low-maintenance a high priority. Everyone wants to spend time outdoors, but no one wants to spend that time sanding, staining or replacing worn out wooden deck boards. For enduring beauty with minimal upkeep, consider high-performance composite decking, such as Trex. It resists fading, staining, scratching and mold – and won’t rot, warp, crack or splinter.

Factor in function. Plan your outdoor space to align with how you’ll use it, whether that will be for relaxing, entertaining, dining alfresco, etc. Consider all-weather cabinetry and outdoor storage for added convenience. Additionally, think about factors such as views, sun/shade and entryways that will have an impact on your design layout.

Frame your space. While railings provide a necessary safety function, they also serve an aesthetic role by creating a decorative frame for an outdoor space and defining the setting’s style. Simplify the selection process with these expertly curated railing looks that pair beautifully with popular decking colors.

Forego the folding chairs. Make your backyard more comfortable with inviting furniture pieces. Mix and match a variety of weather-resistant outdoor pieces – from benches and Adirondack chairs to cozy couches with colorful cushions – to provide multiple seating options and create a welcoming atmosphere.

Heat things up. One of the hottesttrends in outdoor living is incorporating warming features into outdoor spaces. Create physical and ambient warmth with candles, tiki torches, lanterns and firepits.

Let there be light. Lighting is another effective way to add warmth, ambiance and safety to an outdoor space. Designed for easy installation, Trex Outdoor Lighting provides sophisticated silhouettes for enhancing decks, railings and landscapes.

Go high-tech. With the increasing popularity of home automation, it’s only natural that this trend should migrate outdoors. There are now a wealth of electronics and entertainment systems designed specifically for outdoor use, and available at all budget levels.

Create a unique space. Just like you would for interior rooms, infuse your personality into the design of your outdoor space. Choose colors and patterns that reflect your style and customize with personal touches, such as pillows, throw blankets, art, tableware and plants. Switch accessories seasonally to keep your space fresh and fun.


Tech Transforms Dining Out Experience

(Family Features) Satisfying a craving has become easier than ever with the growing menu of interactive tools available at restaurants. From ordering to entertaining to rewarding, these resources make it simple to enjoy visiting your favorite eateries.

With technology transforming nearly every other aspect of life, it should come as no surprise that mobile and electronic tools, such as Outback Steakhouse’s new mobile app, are fast-growing restaurant trends.

Other enhancements make it faster and more entertaining to dine away from home. To make the most of your next meal out, find out which of the following services your favorite restaurants is offering:

Mobile apps. You use your smartphone for everything else, so why not at your favorite restaurant? Mobile apps give customers more control over their dining experience, allowing them to choose how and when they want to pay the bill, receive exclusive offers, join the wait list and check in. Using the new Outback Steakhouse mobile app, you can peruse the menu ahead of time and when the meal is done, there’s no need to wait for the bill; you can pay right from your phone, split the check, add a tip and even securely store payment details for future visits. To learn more, visit outback.com/app.

Call ahead seating. While you used to have to physically go to a restaurant and wait in line, you can now call ahead to find out the estimated wait time and put your party on the list for now or a later time, before walking out your door. Some restaurants even allow you to view the current wait times and join the list on their websites.

Online ordering. When restaurants first began offering carry out menus, you had to physically go to the restaurant, place your order and wait while it was prepared. Today, you can either call your order in or with a few clicks, place your order online and have it delivered or ready for carry out at the time you choose. Some restaurants even allow you to save favorite orders for future use.

Interactive table kiosks. This trend started with tableside games for simple entertainment while you waited for your order, but quickly evolved into much more. Now, not only can you pass the time playing games solo or with table mates, you can peruse the menu, place orders and pay your bill all on your own schedule.

Rewards programs. Whether you’re earning stamps or swiping a card, rewards programs can pay big for frequent customers. Basic approaches involve a punch or stamp card that accumulates toward a free menu item. More sophisticated programs let guests earn points toward free or discounted meals, offer exclusive discounts and engage patrons in special promotions. The Bloomin’ Brands’ Dine Rewards program, coming this summer, will allow customers to earn up to 50 percent off their fourth visit to any one of its restaurants, including Outback Steakhouse.

Through technology, restaurant service has evolved into an uber-personal affair. Interacting with the special features available through your favorite restaurants lets you customize nearly every aspect of your culinary experience.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Family Features, Sponsored by Outback

Jardine principal named Regional Magnet Principal of the Year

Lura Jo Atherly, principal at Jardine, left of banner, was been named Region VII Principal of the Year by Magnet Schools of America.
Lura Jo Atherly, principal at Jardine, left of banner, was been named Region VII Principal of the Year by Magnet Schools of America.

Lura Jo Atherly, principal at Jardine STEM and Career Exploration Magnet Middle School, has been named Region VII Principal of the Year by Magnet Schools of America. The award recognizes magnet school principals in eight regions across the country who have demonstrated a strong commitment to learning opportunities through themed-based education, while setting high expectations for students and staff. She is in the running for the National Magnet School Principal of the Year.

“I’m honored. But it’s not about me. It’s about my teachers and my team doing such great work to make Jardine the amazing school that it is,” Atherly said. “It’s a privilege not only to work here at Jardine, but to be a part of the Wichita Public Schools.”

Atherly will be recognized during the Magnet Schools of America’s National Conference in Miami in May. During the conference, the National Magnet School Principal of the Year will be announced.

How to Manage To-Dos and Capture Ideas on the Go

(Family Features) When your to-do list is miles long and deadlines are looming, it can be hard to tap into a creative, problem-solving mindset. Creating a more intentional approach to productivity will let you shift gears to not only cross items of your list, but to deliver higher quality, more effective work.

    1. Keep a notebook and pen on hand at all times. When inspiration strikes is the best time to capture your ideas so you can include the context, references and other details that allow you to develop the concept more completely later on. Keeping all your thoughts and ideas locked up in your head can cloud your ability to dedicate your attention where it’s needed most. Transfer all that brain power to paper or a smart folio like Bamboo Spark, which allows you to export content to an app on your iOS or Android device with the touch of a button, freeing up brain power for more powerful inspirations.


    1. Create to-do lists and prioritize tasks. Start each morning by reviewing what’s on deck for the day. Putting your list to paper frees your mind from trying to keep an ever-changing list of tasks straight. Categorize your to-dos and assign priorities to help you manage your time, and at the end of each day, take stock to cross off completed items, reprioritize those that remain and add new projects that will require your attention soon.


    1. Set boundaries on your multitasking. Today’s corporate culture rewards the greatest jugglers, but dividing your attention in too many directions can actually be counterproductive. Learn to designate times when you’ll simply eliminate interruptions to keep your focus sharp. This may mean turning off your notifications during meetings, shutting down your email for an hour each day to tackle a task uninterrupted or forwarding calls when you need to cut back on distractions.


  1. Give yourself permission to slow down and think. Technology has assuredly enabled greater efficiency at the office, but it brings some limitations as well. Sometimes, simply allowing yourself the time to sit with a pen and paper is the best way to let new ideas flow, free from the distractions of incoming mail and the confines of thoughts conveyed through keystrokes. Sketching, drawing, even creating diagrams and outlines are visual outlets that can help you explore new concepts and solve nagging problems.

“I think that there’s always a benefit to taking a step back and trying to be mindful,” said entrepreneur John Gannon, CEO and co-founder of BEMAVEN. “Every morning I write a journal. I write about the things I’m thankful for, the things I have on my mind then I also generate 10 ideas a day. I decided to try the Bamboo Spark to have a more organic experience of actually putting pen to paper.”

  1. Take regular breaks. It may seem unrealistic when the clock is ticking its way toward a deadline, but stepping away can actually help you regain focus and allow you to complete a difficult task more efficiently. Instead of staring at a blank screen in frustration, grant yourself a 10-minute break to get up, move around and grab a fresh cup of coffee or some water. A brief recharge can be just the cure to get you back on track when you hit a bump or start to feel overwhelmed.

For more productivity tips, and to learn more about Wacom’s consumer products, visit Wacom.com or the Bamboo News blog.


Cosmosphere strengthens focus on education

COSMOSPHERE CAMPS0003The Cosmosphere, the Hutchinson, Kan.-based space center and museum, has embarked on a multi-faceted journey of revitalization, with a large amount of the effort focusing on more advanced educational programming. New curriculum that focuses on Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and college and career readiness helps teachers and students connect the dots between theory and application.

The Smithsonian-affiliated Cosmosphere’s Hall of Space Museum, as many are aware, houses the largest combined collection of U.S. and Russian space artifacts in the world. Whereas the Cosmosphere’s educational programs may be less widely known, the newly expanded science-based education efforts tie perfectly into the national push for better science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and career development. The initiative also addresses issues at the state level, providing relevant learning content for school districts strapped by shortages of math and science teachers and facing extremely tight budgets.

“We know times are tough for schools, and they have to make hard decisions about how to spend their money,” says Tracey Tomme, the Cosmosphere’s Vice President of Education. “As we design our new programs, we are making sure they are meeting the standards schools need. For instance, STEM skills are being emphasized heavily in schools. While literacy and math are key to every child’s future, our programs are meeting all of these core areas along with history, communications and workplace skills. The best way to describe it is that we are no longer just a field trip. We are providing standards-aligned, career-focused, curricular packages that include a culminating event at the Cosmosphere.”  

Tomme joined the Cosmosphere in August of 2014, with the role of driving the institution’s commitment to STEM education initiatives and positioning the Cosmosphere as a leader in applied science education. She previously served as President/CEO of the Colorado Consortium for Earth and Space Science Education (CCESSE), the company responsible for running the Challenger Learning Center of Colorado. In that position, she helped turn the Challenger Learning Center of Colorado into one of the region’s premier providers of STEM educational outreach.

The Cosmosphere currently serves approximately 12,000 students each year. With its new programs those numbers are likely to increase to 15,000 to 20,000 or more per year. Tomme said Cosmosphere representatives have visited with many school districts around the area, and it is clear they want to provide the best programs possible for their students. 

 “We are developing solid programs that schools can truly appreciate as we partner to serve the students and teachers of Kansas and our surrounding states,” Tomme said.

The Cosmosphere’s learning experiences include:

  • Known worldwide, Cosmosphere Camps, for students entering second grade through high school, are dedicated to inspiring explorers of all ages using STEM principles and building leadership and teamwork skills. Camps include Space 101-501, where campers train like astronauts using methods employed by NASA; Mars Academy, Forces of Flight, Starship Earth, Lunar Base and Alien Adventure. There are also custom-designed camps for school groups as well as Merits of Space for Boy Scouts from across the country.
  • The Cosmosphere takes its education programs direct to students through school visits and live webcasts.
  • The Cosmosphere’s professional staff trains, educates and entertains Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, American Heritage Girls, and 4-H participants of all ages. From liquid nitrogen ice cream to hands-on experiments, the Cosmosphere inspires and motivates Scouts. Merit badges and patches are available, and all participants receive a customized Cosmosphere patch.
  • The new Cosmosphere curriculum-based packages are grade-level aligned from pre-K through 12th grade. These packages include educator professional development and co-curricular lessons. Every package includes science, math, an historical focus, literature piece, and an engineering design challenge.

Over the years, the Cosmosphere’s education experiences and space camps have provided a learning spark and springboard for many people now working science or high-tech related jobs. A few notable alumni include Amanda Premer, Operations Support Officer, Johnson Space Center (JSC); Theresa Perks, Mission Controller, JSC;  Paul Dees, Engineer, NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center; and Kate Becker, Satellite Data and Information Service Office of International Affairs, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The new focus in many of the Cosmosphere educational experiences involves translating learning into group collaboration, problem-solving and risk/reward trials. They are cross-curricular, integrating not only science and math but communications/journalism skills, history and other subjects, while also emphasizing life skills and critical thinking.

“Reading about a nuclear crisis or a problem with a crew of astronauts trying to get back to Earth is one thing,” Tomme said, “but working together to address all aspects of a situation and formulate and manage a solution, really makes students think and learn in a way that energizes and inspires them.”

Tomme also explained how experiencing failure and overcoming it – as has happened many times in space exploration – is a key learning that participants take away from the Cosmosphere’s educational programs.

To better position itself for the future and more accurately reflect its offerings, the Cosmosphere recently introduced refreshed branding that highlights its efforts to provide more services to schools and learners of all ages. The positioning includes a new tagline: International SciEd Center and Space Museum. Tomme said the Cosmosphere strives to increase outreach not just internationally but locally as well as to increase the diversity of the participants in its educational programs for schools, camps and after-school programs. 

Toward that goal, the center is keeping its prices as low as possible while adding programs that are accessible through scholarships for underrepresented groups. The Cosmosphere has seen significant enthusiasm for its All Girls Physics of Flight camps, Boys and Girls Club programs and rural school outreach initiatives. 

The Cosmosphere is seeking additional funds and engaging with corporate sponsors to continue and expand these enhanced STEM-based, experiential learning experiences for kids nationwide and internationally. They are able and willing to match those who want to provide quality educational experiences for students in their region to the schools who are seeking support. General funding support for the education programs also allows the Cosmosphere to keep the price point as low as possible.

That expanded access and the overall new focus for the Cosmosphere builds on the center’s established reputation and world-recognized museum of space history and allows it to touch and inspire youth in entirely new ways.

“Our artifacts collection is truly amazing,” Tomme said. “It should be used as a tourist attraction but also as a learning tool for the next generation. The programs we are creating and delivering are being watched closely by other museums and institutions.  We are setting a new standard for engaging young minds in historical events that will inspire them to think big.”

West health science students have lesson in 3D printing

West High engineering teacher James Pugh shows health science students how to design a bone in the CAD program that was printed on a 3D printer.
West High engineering teacher James Pugh shows health science students how to design a bone in the CAD program that was printed on a 3D printer.

Students in West High School’s health science class got a hands-on lesson on how 3D printers can help in the medical field. Health science teacher Melody Robinson and engineering teacher James Pugh worked together for a unique cross-curricular project.

The students learned about the skeletal system and how 3D printers are being used to make prosthetics for children and animals. The health science students spent a day in Pugh’s engineering class learning to design their own plastic bone in a CAD program. The design was printed on a 3D printer with their name and a hole for a key ring.

“This is a cool way to enable students to see the connection between Health and Bioengineering. We want to expose them to a wide-open career field,” said Robinson.

“It’s interesting that you can make items that can help people with a 3D printer,” said Jonathan Fonseca, junior at West. “I like how they want us to learn new things.”

Robinson and Pugh plan to team up for future class projects.

5 ways to make the most of tech gifts

(Family Features) No matter the occasion – holidays, birthdays or promotions – technology gifts are always on the top of wish lists. With today’s devices spanning a wide range of price points and features, selecting the right item is just the beginning. When buying a tech gift, there are several things to keep in mind.

Ensure your intended gets maximum enjoyment from your tech gift with these tips.

    1. Features and functions. It can be tempting to buy the latest model with a plethora of fancy functions, but if the person you’re buying for won’t use them, you may be better off saving money on a version with a lighter feature package. Remember, too, that for those with little tech experience, the excess can be overwhelming. Your best bet: shop for the features you need, but don’t over-reach.
    2. Support and guidance. Who doesn’t want a tech hero waiting in the wings to answer questions, help with set up and solve problems? With so many tech gadgets connecting via apps through your smartphone, you may be surprised to learn that your wireless company offers comprehensive tech support from Asurion. Tech experts are available via chat, phone and email to provide help across any device or platform. They can help with things such as troubleshooting a specific operating system or connecting devices to a digital home network.
    3. Power source. Even devices with superior battery life run out of juice eventually. Help extend the usability of your tech gift by supplying extra batteries or a charging plug if they aren’t included in the original packaging. Or consider a car charging system to help restore battery life on the go.
    4. Add-on accessories. The market for tech devices is far and wide with options that simply add some bling to more practical choices that help protect devices from damage. Most devices don’t truly require many additional accessories, but covers and cases that help protect devices against dropping are a smart investment. Other smart bets are accessories that will enhance the product’s use, such as a pair of quality headphones.
    5. Smartphone protection. An insurance plan helps protect your purchase from loss, theft and accidental damage, ensuring it can be enjoyed longer. Research your options before shopping, and be sure to thoroughly explore the coverage plans; typically only your wireless carrier offers comprehensive coverage for both loss and theft. Other third party products usually only cover accidental damage and may have other restrictions to limit coverage.

Asurion partners with the leading wireless carriers so shoppers can easily add premier support and protection when shopping for technology gifts for friends and family. Learn more at asurion.com.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images


Honeymoon allows time for reflection

Jamaica01At this time last month, I was enjoying my honeymoon in Jamaica. On July 25, I experienced the best day of my life when I was able to exchange vows with the love of my life and become a husband to her.

The wave of emotions were almost too much to handle at times, but the day went off without a hitch. All of our family and friends came to celebrate with us, and it was so incredibly special I couldn’t possibly do it justice by trying to describe it here.

I will, however, say my wife, Kendall, and I are so grateful for all the well-wishes and love we received from our family and friends. The day was everything we dreamed it would be, and we feel truly blessed to have all of those special people in our lives.

Of course, as great as the wedding was, the honeymoon was pretty spectacular as well. It was my first time leaving the country (Kendall had previously traveled abroad while taking part in a mission trip in India), and the island of Jamaica was breathtaking.

The mountain views contrasted with the ocean vistas can’t be rivalled by many places, and the people of Jamaica were so nice and welcoming. They all seemed to truly love life, and their happiness was contagious.

During our time there, we had the opportunity to go river tubing and climb Dunn’s River Falls. Both were fantastic, but if you ever make it down there, I highly recommend Dunn’s River Falls. It was incredible.

We had ample time to relax at our resort, and my favorite pastime was to sit on the beach. During this time, I would either read with the soothing sounds of the ocean as my sound track, or I would simply stare out at the waves and get lost in thought.

Our cellphones didn’t work down there, so it was a nice break to be disconnected from our normal lives for a while, and that lack of digital connection truly helped me in my reading and thinking.

One thought I kept coming back to was this magazine. I was dating Kendall when I bought it, and I did so with our future in mind. I looked forward to being able to run this family magazine with my own family, and that is why I am incredibly excited she wrote an essay for this month. This is the first issue I will have produced as a married man, and my wife is officially a part of it.

As the seasons begin to change, life continues to change as well, and judging by the events so far, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for my wife and I.

Students spend their summer learning STEAM

A student in the STEM summer program at Mueller learned how to design a video game and make a working game controller with Play-Doh and electrodes.
A student in the STEM summer program at Mueller learned how to design a video game and make a working game controller with Play-Doh and electrodes.

Students from Bucker, L’Ouverture, Mueller, Spaght, Brooks, Jardine and Truesdell are having fun during the summer at STEM and Arts Summer Academy. The 8-week program offers elementary lessons at Mueller and middle school lessons at Jardine centered around STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) themes.

Elementary students spend half of the day working on lessons in reading, math and science. The afternoons are spent with more hands-on lessons in science, but also fine arts activities like drama, dance and art.  The elementary students go on field trips to see how STEAM themes are used outside the classroom, including a visit to a farm.

A middle school student takes apart a computer to learn how it works as part of the STEAM summer program.
A middle school student takes apart a computer to learn how it works as part of the STEAM summer program.

Middle school students have lessons in math and reading the first part of the week, and the final day is dedicated to working on projects they will showcase in July. The students declare a “major” and “minor” for their project, based on their interest in STEAM-related topics including photography, video production, crime scene investigation, computer repair, engineering and dance. Students from Jardine and Truesdell have the opportunity to attend week-long camps at Southwestern College to learn about college life.

The program is offered to students who are at or just below grade-level and need extra support and for students who are doing well and want to take enrichment classes.

Hadley students take off to wrap up Flying Challenge

Hadley Middle School students flew in a small airplane to wrap up the Airbus Flying Challenge.
Hadley Middle School students flew in a small airplane to wrap up the Airbus Flying Challenge.

Students from Hadley Middle School got a birds-eye view of Wichita to wrap up its year-long Airbus Flying Challenge, a partnership between Hadley, Airbus, the United Way, Communities in Schools and Wichita State University. The Airbus Flying Challenge matched Hadley students with mentors from Airbus. The students and their mentors have been meeting throughout the year. The final event was taking students up in an airplane, provided by Kansas State University-Salina. It was the first time many of the students had flown.

The partnership encouraged students to learn about careers in aviation and engineering and to see how math, technology, science and engineering can be used every day. But for many students, it was also an opportunity just to talk with a caring adult.