Summer 2016 Community Newsletter

(This newsletter first appeared in the Racine Journal Times on June 26, 2016.)

UW-Extension Strengthens Racine County Families

Racine County UW-Extension, in partnership with Focus on Community and Starbuck Middle School recently offered the Strengthening Families Program to Racine families.  This nationally recognized, evidenced-based program has been shown to be effective in preventing alcohol and other drug use as well as in preventing aggressive and hostile behavior in youth.  Families, parents and youth ages 10 to 14, spent 7 weeks learning new skills designed to improve family communication and peer pressure resistance.

The program had positive results on the families. One hundred percent (100%) of youth participants learned new steps to take to keep them from doing something that they know is wrong.  In addition, 86% of youth participants learned better ways to deal with stress, which helps protect a youth from being vulnerable to substance abuse. Parental monitoring is one of the most powerful predictors of adolescent problem behaviors; youth substance abuse and delinquency are higher when parents fail to know where their children are, who they are with, and what they are doing.  As a result of the program, 100% of parents are now more likely to set appropriate limits for their children and encourage positive behaviors in their children, and 80% report they are less likely to blame or criticize their children.

Green Works Program

From February through May, groups of intellectually challenged adults came to the greenhouse on the grounds of the Southern Wisconsin Center in Union Grove to learn about plants and to participate in plant related craft projects. Master Gardener volunteers along with Jeanne Hilinske-Christensen, Racine County UW-Extension Interim Horticulture Educator, taught lessons on topics such as seed starting, transplanting, and propagating.  Craft projects included decorating tin can planters, creating seed mosaics, and arranging flowers.  Partner organization including Lakeside Curative Services, Kenosha Achievement Center, and the Arc of Racine, each attended once per month.

Thirteen Master Gardener volunteers assisted with this project with participants averaging 6 to 9 individuals each week. Many participants attended multiple sessions allowing them to build on previously learned skills.  Supervisors of the groups were very appreciative of the program and praised the Master Gardeners for sharing their time and talents.  Not only was this a learning experience, but one of horticulture therapy for both the participants and teachers.

Summer Tips for Parents

Students are eager for the summer break that has become an American tradition.  The warmth of sunshine and playtime at a park can elicit happy childhood memories.  But, for some working parents, summertime can feel like navigating a labyrinth of how to keep kids safe, healthy and active.  The notion of summer vacation is that families have quality time to re-connect, and students will get a break from all that learning.  The reality for many families is that when the children are home, the parents are not.  And, students can lose between one and two months of what they had learned due to summer learning loss.  But, planned family time and summer learning can actually go hand-in-hand, and here are a few tips to help adults who may feel anxious about joining their child in learning.

Promote inquiry: A visit to a beach is a chance for kids to explore and ask questions.  And, it’s alright if adults don’t have a perfect answer.  Simply be enthused and show a positive attitude about working together to figure things out.

Make connections:  Telling stories and sharing hands-on experiences can help kids make connections to themselves and the world around them, which builds emotional maturity.

Embrace imagination:  creativity and imagination are critical to a child’s development of confidence, independence and resilience.  All kids need the opportunity to be a little bored and sometimes they need permission to use their imagination and explore the world in their own backyard.

Teaching Garden Classes

The Teaching Garden will be hosting the following classes: July 7 Container Vegetable Gardening; July 21 Vegetables and Herbs for Sweet, Fall Harvest; and July 28 Basic Composting and Compost Bin Choices. Classes are held from 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. at the Racine County Food Bank. Classes are free, and pre-registration is required by calling 262-767-2929. For a full listing of classes that run through September, visit

4-H Open House

The Racine County 4-H Program will host an open house for families interested in learning more about 4-H on Tuesday, September 6 from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Union Grove High School.

For more information about UW-Extension programs, contact, 262-767-2929 or email