2019: A Year In Review
Well, here we are again, folks! Another year in the books. 2019 is nearly over and 2020 is just around the corner. When did that happen?!?
Last year, right around this time, we posted our "Year-in-Review 2018" here on the blog, highlighting a ton of awesome stuff we'd done over the past year. It revealed a ton about who we were as a company, where we were going, and what we hoped to do in the future. Now that said future has come (at least a year of it!), we can look back at everything we did in 2019 and see if we accomplished what we set out to do.
Here at Fit and Fun Playscapes, we can tell you, with a resounding cry, that we accomplished all of our goals for this year, and then some after that!
Without further ado, here's what we've done this year:
We had a ton of incredible content published this year on the blog, so it was hard to pick out a select few to mention here.
Way back in January, after spending many long hours and days researching the topic of sensory pathways (and speaking to tons of experts in the fields of occupational therapy and adapted P.E.), we launched our informational blog post "Sensory Pathways! What the heck are those?" with a single purpose: to provide a quick overview of what a sensory pathway was and why it has been used, with such incredible success, for so many years. We also introduced readers to the long-held concept of sensory play, which is exactly what it sounds like: play designed to stimulate the senses. We've seen incredible growth in this space over the 2019 year, specifically in schools, and we're so glad to see such an important concept finally coming into broad acceptance after years of use in the OT/Adapted P.E. space.
We know a ton of occupational therapists are happy!
Speaking of sensory pathways, we sat down with Timothy Davis, Ph.D. CAPE, a professor of graduate and undergraduate courses at SUNY Cortland, and laid out exactly how/why a sensory pathway works. Specifically, Dr. Davis explained how a sensory pathway is a lot more than just fun, playful stickers on the floor, and how there has to be a method to the madness for a sensory pathway to actually be a sensory pathway. Davis also discussed some lesser-known senses outside the OT/Adapted P.E. community, such as how tactile, proprioceptive, and vestibular exercises can be incorporated into a sensory pathway to improve its effectiveness.
Teacher Appreciation Week Is Here!
We love teachers! Teachers are on the frontlines every single day, both in the classroom and out, educating our future leaders of tomorrow. Their job is incredibly rewarding (we hear all the time how it is a job of passion) but also incredibly stressful. Many teachers work multiple jobs to be able to make ends meet (as a certain wonderful person from Rochester told us) since they have to purchase many of their students' school supplies out-of-pocket. Therefore, we didn't feel that Teacher Appreciation Week, a national holiday that takes place in the first week of May, was enough. Instead, we turned the ENTIRE MONTH into TEACHER APPRECIATION MONTH. We spoke to some incredible women, Sally Schulte, Sue-Ellen Baez, and Karalee Peercy, and thanked them for everything they do. Their interviews shine a bright light on the passion teachers have for their work and how they're not properly thanked often enough.
Summertime Tips for Kids with Sensory Processing Issues
We shouted out a wonderfully well-written article by Understood.org's Amanda Morin about why summertime is a tough time for kids with sensory processing issues, also known as SPD. Morin identified eight different ways that a parent or guardian of a child with sensory processing issues can help increase their child's comfortability during the summer months. Summer is, after all, an incredibly sensory-rich time of the year. We added a few more points to her list, and also gave a bit of background about the identification of SPD by occupational therapist Dr. A. Jean Ayers in the 1970s.
#CLEARTHELISTS Makes Rounds on Social Media
A custom playground stencil by Fit and Fun Playscapes
Do you remember when we mentioned that teachers often have to pay for their school supplies (like pencils, paper, pens, etc.) out of pocket? Well, all of that is astoundingly expensive, especially for teachers who work in, say, the music department, and have to buy stands and booklets for their music kids. Sometimes, they even have to buy instruments. Thus #clearthelists was founded, allowing teachers to link their Amazon wishlists to social media so that others could help them out. We did our part: we donated $1,000 to the movement, providing 10 teachers with $100 each to help them clear their lists. It made us so happy to see their responses when they received their donations in the mail, but many more still needed to have their lists cleared.
Childhood Obesity: Where Are We Now?
Childhood obesity is an ongoing problem here in the United States. According to recent reports, specifically by a study from the Centers for Disease Control, 1-in-5 children are considered obese. There is no sign of a reversal in sight, and the rate of childhood obesity continues to climb, as it has for four decades. Politics seems to be a growing problem in terms of solving the childhood obesity epidemic, especially because our current policies allow pizza tomato paste to be classified as a vegetable.
And yes, we were just as shocked as you to find that out.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, or EPI, the United States has a serious problem. Particularly, a teacher problem. It estimates that by 2025, schools may be short by as many as 200,000 teachers if the trend does not reverse. Qualifications, low teacher pay, lack of career support and in-school pressure are all to blame. Remember that "wonderful woman from Rochester" we spoke about earlier? Well, that was Heather Taylor, a music/band teacher in the Rochester school system. We spoke to her in the article about what it's like to be a teacher in the current school environment. She mentioned, for instance, how her budget for the entire school year is $80. For reference, a single mouthpiece for a tuba instrument runs $60.
November was a bit of a crazy month for us here at Fit and Fun. We attended four conferences in four weeks, which meant a ton of prep work, a ton of stress, plus a few sleepless nights here and there to prepare for seminars and presentations we were giving. Overall, though, we loved having all of these opportunities to show our amazing company to new people. Plus, we made so many new friends!
The first conference of the month took place at White Plains High School, where we met with upwards of 100 members of the NYS AHPERD Southeastern Zone. Pam, our founder, also ran a session with Steve Ciancio, a physical education teacher at Overlook Primary School in Arlington, NY, and Penny Rutledge-Cuatt, an Occupational Therapist from the Arlington Central School District. They used our Roll-Out Activities® for the session.
We were glad to see so many of our Southeastern Zone friends present, plus all of the new ones we made.
The same week, we headed to the 123rd Annual NYS PTA Convention in Tarrytown, where we met with PTAs from across New York State. Pam, our founder, is a former PTA mom herself, so she was super excited to meet with other leaders from across the state to hear about their experiences while sharing some of her own. We gave away a few of our products in a raffle, too, and had smaller scratch-off winners from Buffalo to Montauk!
As with the SEZ Conference, we saw some of our friends already there, plus we met a lot of new friends as well. We were also glad to see Carol Raymond, who helped us organize our booth and worked with us so wonderfully to get there!
We packed our bags and headed up north to the Turning Stone Resort and Casino for this annual favorite! This was the third year in a row that we attended the conference, so we were glad to provide a sensory pathway circuit in the registration area, which got LOTS of attention. We attended the conference with Dr. Tim Davis of SUNY Cortland and Alexis Abdo-Davis, and got to see their amazing presentation, "Sensory Pathways 101: Why All the HYPE?!?" on the third day. We also saw some of our old friends, like Steve Ciancio and Kevin Yarnell, while we were there!
It was a long three days, but we always enjoy the NYS AHPERD Conference. Our booth looked fantastic, plus we got a ton of interested visitors who loved our sensory pathway and wanted to find out more. Our Roll-Outs, once again, were a big hit during Tim and Alexis's presentation. We're looking forward to coming back again next year!
Georgia Association for Positive Behavior Support Conference
Kelly Guglietta of Newton County Schools; Todd Spring of Fit and Fun Playscapes
A few months ago, we were contacted by a behavioral specialist, Kelly Guglietta, from the Newton County Schools District in Georgia, about something really amazing she was doing with her students. She had taken our outdoor playground stencils, painted them indoors, and used the sensory walks alongside a PBIS framework at her schools. Her results, she said, were remarkable. Thus, after a few conversations, we decided to head down to Atlanta for the 2019 GAPBS Conference ... and boy are we glad we did!
We learned an absolutely enormous amount of information pertaining to GAPBS and the PBIS framework in schools. We spoke to a lot of physical education teachers and behavioral specialists from across the state of Georgia who provided us with details about what their schools so desperately needed, many of which were Title-I schools. Plus, we gave away a ton of our Roll-Outs to a select group of winners! Congratulations to those who won!
Special thanks to Kelly Guglietta and Megan Buchanan from the Newton County School District. It was so wonderful to meet you both in person, and we hope to be there again next year!
We launched our Sensory Pathways Resource Center this year with the goal of creating a free hub of information for all things related to sensory pathways. We provide quick FAQs, including "What Is a Sensory Pathway?" "What Is Sensory Play?" and "Who Created Sensory Pathways?". All the information within the resource center was verified by Dr. Tim Davis, Ph.D., who helped us develop the page with a ton of wonderful content that can be found there. We explain how sensory pathways work, how we (Fit and Fun) can help, plus a list of the product options we offer in relation to sensory pathways.
Alexis Abdo-Davis and Tim Davis present at the 83rd Annual NYS AHPERD Convention in Verona, NY.
We've been in the recess/playground stencils business for ten years, so we've learned a thing or two along the way. That's why we also created the Recess Resource Center this year, to serve alongside our Sensory Pathways Resource Center, and to provide our customers with all the information they need about how to create an effective and unique outdoor play area. We've offered all of that information freely on our website for years now, but we collected that information this year into a more organized space (a central hub, if you will) for easier access and navigation. Have a question about recess planning and zoning? What types of stencils you should use? Grant opportunities? It's all there. Plus, we provide a link to our own products and services in case you're a new customer and wondering what amazing things we offer :)
On the right-hand side of our homepage, you'll find links to all of our social media accounts across various different platforms. This year, we've made it a priority to expand our social media presence to both, A), hear more from our customers by connecting directly to them and, B), learn more through instant connections with friends across the globe. If you haven't already, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and subscribe to us on YouTube. We frequently do giveaways on all those platforms and you need to be a follower to enter. Plus, our social media accounts are great places to reach us if you've got any questions or just want to say hi!
CONCLUSION: AN ALL-AROUND AMAZING YEAR!
We've worked incredibly hard this year to provide you with all of the best resources and products we can. We've made a ton of progress (and surpassed a company milestone!!) but we've still got a lot more down the pipe. New products, new games, new projects, new conventions, etc., it's all coming. Stay tuned!
From all of us at Fit and Fun Playscapes, we wish you a happy holiday and a happy new year! See you in 2020!