Kevin Foster

I’m all for reducing our carbon footprints. It’s a metaphor that works well for all ages. I like the extension of the metaphor to tracking in Cycle Style Boston, a blog that profiles bicycle commuters.

Here, akin to a raccoon print in the mud, is another kind of eye candy—the Yellow-Coated Internal-Gear Mathematician. Native to the South, and naturalized in Brookline, this particular specimen is married to my cousin.

Cycle Style Boston

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Kevin Foster works as a Survey Methodologist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. His daily commute takes him from his home near Coolidge Corner in Brookline to the Federal Reserve building at Dewey Square. He cycles every day of the year there isn’t ice on the ground. Rather than the direct route through Kenmore Square, he chooses a longer but more relaxing route route through Brookline to near the BU Bridge, where he gets on the Charles River Esplanade bike path towards downtown. Says Kevin,

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What’s up with Raffi and National Screen-Free Week?

Screen-free week has a whole different meaning for my city now. I’ve become even more convinced that being glued to the screen is terrible for adults and kids if that screen holds a wellspring of horror. News media can be inflammatory and inflationary. By repeating scenes of crisis and mayhem, injury and shellshock, television news media inflates, for children who are in the room,  the actual imminent danger. And you know what I mean by inflammatory here.

Before the recent tragic events on home turf,  however, I wanted to get some answers to this weird animal called “Screen-Free Week,” so I talked to Josh Golin, Associate Director of the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood. Here’s what he said.

Q: Before I ask anything else, I’ve got to know, is Raffi [Cavoukian] really coming to the Boston area under your auspices? What’s the Campaign’s connection with Raffi?

A: Raffi once turned down a lot of money to have his song Baby Beluga made into a film. He refused ever to market to children and has been a really outspoken critic of advertising to children.raffi

The Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood has permission from Estate of Fred Rogers to give out the Fred Rogers Integrity Award in his name.  We’ve given it out four times and Raffi is one of the honorees.

We have a May 4th concert at Berklee School of Music. We see it as a screen-free week celebration because its the next to last day of the weeklong campaign. It’s co-sponsored by Raffi’s Center for Child Honoring.

He really did have a lot of opportunities to increase his bottom line by being more aggressive in marketing to children. It’s really honorable that he refused.

Does Screen-Free Week look different in one community, like Cambridge, and different in another place, say somewhere in the Midwest, or in Texas?

We’re struggling with children and adults being so media-saturated everywhere. We’ve had people doing amazing things, all over the country. Bozeman, Montana went all out  and has their entire community behind Screen-Free week, with events at the children’s museum one night, an outdoor event next night, and so on. The success of Screen-Free Week in a given community depends on whether there are a few people to get behind it and support.

The places where communities have embraced Screen-Free week has less to do with geography than where there are people willing to commit to doing something.

What does a successful Screen-Free Week look like?

It means so many different things to so many different people that there’s no one way of success. The most success is where people are creating some level of community around the issue, whether as a classroom or a town, not just taking on the challenge to go screen-free as a family.

Do you go around and evaluate the impact of Screen-Free week in various places?

No, but what we’re really looking for is for people to have fun—for screen-free week not to be this burden with kids feeling “Oh, three more days until I can turn the video games back on!”

Interesting events, gatherings and creative ways of doing screen-free activities are the ones that we find most exciting.

What’s the history of Screen-Free Week?

We took it over in 2011. It used to be TV-turnoff Week, housed at the Center for Screen Time Awareness, which unfortunately went under because of funding difficulties. We were approached by their board and we jumped at the chance to adopt the campaign. In this day and age, it didn’t make sense anymore to call it “TV-turnoff” week. We were worried about changing the name because it was so well recognized.

One of the things we’re trying to do is raise awareness about screen-time as a whole. I think there is already a broader understanding among parents limiting kids time watching TV. But because so many of the technologies are now “educational,” and because some are simply more interesting than TV, we don’t always think of the amount of screen time itself being an issue.

Screen-Free Week is a campaign to help parents think through what all those hours, on all different kinds of screens, add up to on a daily basis. It’s six, seven hours, for a kid or teen, in many cases.

How is that “screen-free” term working for you?

We do get a lot of pushback. But what we stress is that this is about entertainment. We’re not saying don’t go to work, or if kid has a homework assignment they shouldn’t do it. Sometimes that message doesn’t get through as clearly as we like.

Some people say it’s not realistic to expect people to actually go screen-free. I find that interesting! If our lives have changed so much that just going a week without TV or video games for kids isn’t thinkable, well, that says a lot.

I think a lot of where the value comes from is the cold turkey aspect. In my own life, it’s really interesting to see the changes that take place in me.

 

Mother Nature’s Child to Play in Somerville

Somerville Climate Action, Rep. Denise Provost and The Growing Center present a free film:

MOTHER NATURE’S CHILD

Mother Nature’s Child explores nature’s powerful role in children’s health and development through the experience of children of all ages.
The film marks a moment in time when a living generation can still recall a childhood of free play outdoors; this will not be true for most children growing up today. The effects of “nature deficit disorder” are now being noted across the country in epidemics of child obesity, attention disorders, and depression.

Discussion of how to keep city kids connected to nature will follow the film.

Weds. MARCH 27, 7-9pm
FREE

ARTS AT THE ARMORY MEZZANINE
191 HIGHLAND AVE.

November/December Events

Coming up at the Harvard Museum of Natural History on Thursday evenings, (11/15, 11/29, and 12/13)…I’ll be there!

Woodlands and Waters, Forests and Faucets: A Look at Massachusetts’ Woods, Water Bodies, and Water Supplies for the Boston Metro Area

Lecture by Betsy Colburn, Harvard Forest

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 6:00 PM

Betsy Colburn,  Aquatic Ecologist at the Harvard Forest in Petersham, MA, investigates how forests affect the water cycle – e.g., streamflows, groundwater, floodwaters, wetlands, and clean water for human uses.  In this talk, Dr. Colburn will look at how major changes in land use have also changed the sources of water for metropolitan Boston, and going forward, how hold proposals for future forest conservation and land use have important implications for life in eastern Mass., as well as in the rural central and western areas. Free and open to the public, Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford Street. Free event parking in the 52 Oxford Street garage.

The Ants of New England

Lecture and booksigning with Aaron Ellison

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 6:00 PM

Ecologist Aaron Ellison (of the Harvard Forest in Petersham, MA) and co-authors have  just completed the new Field Guide to the Ants of New England (Yale Univ. Press), the first user-friendly regional guide devoted to the diversity, ecology, natural history  and beauty  of the “little things that run the world.” Lavishly illustrated with more than 500 line drawings and  300 photographs, Ellison’s guide introduces amateur and professional naturalists alike to more than 140 ant species found in the northeast U.S. and eastern Canada.   Free and open to the public, Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford Street. Free event parking in the 52 Oxford Street garage.

Nature Wars: The Incredible Story of How Wildlife Comebacks Turned Backyards into Battlegrounds

Author talk and booksigning with Jim Sterba

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 13, 6:00 PM

Although Americans may spend 90 percent of their time indoors, we now live in closer proximity to wild animals now than anytime in our history.  Journalist Jim Sterba traces our 400-year relationship to wild animals, from the 19th-century “era of extermination” to the conservation movement of last century,  and up through the current age of “sprawl.”  Today, Sterba argues, our well-meaning efforts to protect certain species has allowed some wild populations to burgeon out of control, costing billions in damage, degrading ecosystems, and deepening disputes that have polarized communities. Free and open to the public, Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford Street. Free event parking in the 52 Oxford Street garage.