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From the Principal’s Pen ~ January 2020

Submitted by: Jennifer McGee, Principal of Atwood Primary


I had a doctor’s appointment recently, and (maybe too much information here) I discovered, not surprisingly, that I have a vitamin D deficiency.  I say “not surprisingly” because the sun is a big, healthy source of vitamin D.  It seems, the older I get, the less I get outside once it becomes cold. This is not good for Mainers.

Children, at the turn of the century, were commonly diagnosed with “rickets”. This was the result of poor nutrition, and of course, back then, it was difficult for people to get enough fruits and vegetables in the winter and spring months.  Now, the lack of vitamin D is less about nutrition and more about a lack of sunlight.  Some studies have shown up to 60% of children, age 6 – 12 have a deficiency in vitamin D.

We recently had a family move here from a much warmer state.  They cracked up when I told them children go outside for recess here when it is (feels like) 10 degrees or above!  They couldn’t believe how “rugged” Maine kids are!   I told them if we made the temperature requirement any higher, we would NEVER be outdoors. Fact:   We live in Maine, and we have cold, long winters.  Next Fact:  Children need to get outside!

Harvard Health Publishing gives us six crucial reasons for why children have to play outside, YEAR ROUND:

  1. Sunshine: Vitamin D plays a critical role in bone development and bolstering the immune system
  2. Exercise: Harvard recommends at least an hour of outdoor play each day
  3. Executive Functioning: Time alone outside and time with friends helps children learn to prioritize, plan, troubleshoot, negotiate, multi-task and become creative
  4. Taking risks: Children need to learn to take some risks, and playing outdoors offers children ways to challenge themselves…on the firepole, the swings, the monkey bars…taking some risks help children develop confidence, and they will learn as much from failure as from success
  5. Socialization: Children need to learn how to work together, how to make friends, how to share and cooperate, and how to treat one another.  If they only play in structured settings, they will not learn all of the social nuances they will need in life.
  6. Appreciation of Nature: The future of our planet depends on children valuing the outdoors and all of the gifts it has to offer.   One of our most important jobs is to connect our children to nature.

Now that 2020 has arrived, it’s a wonderful time to make some resolutions!  Mine is to spend time each day in the great outdoors!  I even found some great snow pants at Sam’s Club for $15!  I mean business!

One of the most important ways to encourage a love of the outdoors is to make sure your children are warm, dry and comfortable when they are outside.   Several thin layers are the best way to keep a child’s body warm.  If they are wearing layers, once they are back in the classroom, they can take off a sweatshirt or sweater when they are back inside.  Keeping your child’s feet, head and fingers warm is crucial for fun in the wintertime.  Having a warm and dry extra pair of socks and mittens in the backpack is always a good idea!  And….and this is wicked important….write your child’s name in permanent marker inside of all of their winter clothing.   You spend a ton of money on nice winter apparel and we don’t want you to lose a single piece!

While we are on the topic of winter clothing…the biggest way you can help us during the winter months is practicing, practicing, practicing with your child to get them to become independent with their ski pants, boots, jackets, mittens and hats!  You know what a circus it can become at home when you are in a hurry to go somewhere with small children! Imagine what it is like to get an entire class ready to dress and undress…multiple times each day!  Teaching your children to manage all of their winter gear is a giant help to our classroom teachers!

Here at school, we will try (if the temperature cooperates) to get your children outside at least twice each day!  There are some really cool things to do in Maine in the wintertime that you may want to explore:

  •   This is an amazing website filled with discounts, ideas, suggestions, and programs for Maine kids to explore. I did this with my children when they were little and because of it, they learned how to downhill ski
  • Quarry Road in Waterville…you can enjoy cross country skiing, they have rentals, you can fat bike, snow shoe, and go sledding!
  • Just plain good old-fashioned sledding…anywhere there is a hill! (Colby College has a great spot!)
  • Ice fishing and ice skating!
  • Make snow forts, snowmen and snowwomen, and snow angels!

One of my favorite memories with my children was going with friends when the pond had just frozen solidly.  We put on our ice skates and glided over the glassy ice by moonlight.  The only sounds were our ice skates sliding and our breathing.  When we got home, we got into our jammies and had hot cocoa, and we all slept soundly that night…worn out by the fresh air.

Happy New Year Atwood Families. I wish you ample joy, ample fresh air, and perfect levels of vitamin D for 2020!


Educationally Yours,

Jennifer McGee


Attendance Matters:  Beginning in January, we will be recognizing monthly perfect attendance at our town meetings!


Dates to Note:

Friday, December 20:  Dress Like and Elf, bring food for the shelf…have your child wear red and green and bring a non-perishable contribution to the food pantry.

Friday, December 20:  Come join us for our Holiday Show at 1:00 in the Atwood gymnasium!

December 23 – January 1: Holiday Break

Monday, January 20: No school for Martin Luther King Day

Tuesday, January 21: No school/ Teacher Inservice


Coming Events at Atwood Primary

There are no upcoming events at this time.