8/17/2017

Safe Routes to School

This month kids are heading back to school, but the weather is still nice -- so why not let them walk or bike to school and get fresh air and exercise?  The Colorado Department of Transportation has a program that encourages just that.  The Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program helps schools and communities provide a safe environment for students while also encouraging physical activity:

SRTS programs can improve safety, not just for children, but for the entire community. It provides opportunities for people to increase their physical activity and improve their health. It reduces congestion and pollution around our schools and encourages partnerships.

According to the SRTS website, in 1969 about half of all schoolchildren walked or biked to school; today, 90% are driven by auto or bus.  Accordingly, today's childhood obesity rates are much higher than they were fifty years ago.  The SRTS program is available to help schools and communities in a variety of ways, whether it be to paint crosswalks, hire crossing guards, provide educational programs, or set up groups known as "walking school buses," where large groups of students walk together.

If your school or community is considering partnering in the SRTS program, or you just want to provide education on safe walking and biking, our library has some helpful resources, including

8/15/2017

Time Machine Tuesday: Increasing Farm Production in Wartime

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, ever-increasing numbers of Americans were joining the armed forces.  Whether they were training stateside or had been shipped overseas to fight in Europe or the Pacific, the huge numbers of soldiers, sailors, nurses, and others involved in the war needed to be fed.  Luckily, the United States had millions of acres of farmland to grow crops and livestock to feed the hungry soldiers. 

A USDA poster promoting wartime farm production.
There was one problem, however.  Throughout the 1930s farmers on the Great Plains had suffered through drought, dust storms, and the Depression.  Agricultural production had declined as a result, and many wary farmers were reluctant to increase production.  By 1942, however, rising farm prices and a push by government agencies to encourage farm production helped to reverse this trend.  Among the agencies here in Colorado working to help farmers increase production was the Colorado State Board for Vocational Education.  A forerunner to today's community college system, the Board worked to improve education in vocations and trades.  In 1942 they teamed up with the Colorado State College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts (today's Colorado State University) to offer a Rural War Production Training Program. 

The program offered 20-hour courses designed to help farmers increase the production of specific commodities most needed by the war effort (beef, vegetables, wool, etc.).  The courses also encouraged home vegetable gardening due to shortages of imported foods.  "The main purpose of the war production courses is to discuss with producers ways and means, and to assist them in outlining plans of action, by which the production goal can be reached in the shortest possible time and with the greatest efficiency," wrote the Board in one of their course manuals.  These manuals, which you can read online courtesy of our library, were issued for the course instructors to help them develop syllabi. They included teaching tips, discussion questions, sample course outlines, and suggestions for film strips and reference material.  These manuals offer an interesting look at the teaching methods of the past as well as of the importance of farming during wartime.  The manuals available from our library are:

8/14/2017

Alcohol and Impaired Driving

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), more than 26,000 people are arrested for a DUI each year.  This includes both drunk driving and drugged driving.  CDOT conducts numerous public awareness campaigns as well as their "high visibility enforcement" campaign known as "The Heat is On," which include checkpoints and increased police presence during holiday celebration periods and other times throughout the year when drinking tends to increase.

CDOT's Alcohol and Impaired Driving webpage provides numerous resources including public awareness campaign materials; breathalyzer information; links to alternative transportation sources; statistics; grant information for local agencies; and more.  Here you can also download CDOT's free "R-U Buzzed" app for calculating your BAC.  (If you don't want to download an app, you can also print out CDOT's handy wallet-sized BAC chart.)  "R-U Buzzed" can also connect you with other sources of transportation if you are impaired.



Sample screen for CDOT's R-U-Buzzed app.

8/10/2017

Burrowing Owls

The July/August issue of Colorado Outdoors magazine features burrowing owls.  These fascinating creatures are much different than the tree-dwelling owls most of us are all familiar with.  Burrowing owls, as suggested by their name, are ground dwellers.  Unlike most owls, which live in forested areas, burrowing owls spend the summer on Colorado's eastern plains, where they live in prairie dog towns.

No, the owls don't eat the prairie dogs -- the two species have a symbiotic relationship where the owls reuse and repurpose abandoned holes.  The two species also have common predators -- coyotes, hawks, bobcats, badgers, snakes -- so the owls benefit from the prairie dogs' vocal warning systems.

Burrowing owls also differ from most other owls in that they are diurnal (active during the day) and they are also smaller than most other owl species (and cuter).  The owls mostly feed on insects, particularly grasshoppers and beetles, but they will also sometimes eat mice and small reptiles and amphibians.

Although burrowing owls migrate to Arizona, California, Texas, and northern Mexico in the winter, they are considered a threatened species in Colorado, their summer home, because of the elimination of much of their natural habitat.  Eradication of prairie dogs by humans has had an adverse effect on burrowing owls, illustrating the importance of understanding how Colorado's different wildlife species affect one another.  Recommended Survey Protocol and Actions to Protect Nesting Burrowing Owls When Conducting Prairie Dog Control, a Colorado Division of Wildlife publication available from our library, addresses this issue.

In addition to the above-named resources, you can also find information on burrowing owls in several other Division of Wildlife publications available from our library, including The Little Owls and Conservation Plan for Grassland Species of ColoradoSee also Colorado Parks & Wildlife's species profile for more information and links.

8/08/2017

Time Machine Tuesday: Amache Relocation Center and Colorado's Japanese Americans

In February 1942, during the height of WWII, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, ordering the relocation and internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry.  Many believed that Japanese Americans were loyal to their ancestral home and would be a security risk.  This attitude can be seen in the remarks of Dr. Heber R. Harper, a federal health official in Colorado:  "in Japan...the cause is more closely allied to religion and a unique religious fanaticism.  Whether Nazi Germany or Japan is our great enemy, the morale of the Japanese may be much harder to break than that of the Germans."  Harper's remarks, and others that attest to the attitudes of the times, appear in Civilian and Community Morale Through Understanding and Participation, a report of an assembly held at the Colorado State Capitol just two days prior to the issuance of the President's Executive Order. 

As a result of the order, Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to ten internment camps set up across sparsely-populated areas of the American West.  One of these ten camps was Amache (officially the Granada Relocation Center) near the town of Granada in extreme southeastern Colorado.  Forced to live in military-style barracks, relocatees faced a difficult life.  Cold in winter and hot in summer, the camps were surrounded by fences and armed guards.  Although children and teenagers were given the opportunity to attend school, most adults had to work in low-paying, labor-intensive jobs.  The government encouraged farming, but due to the arid conditions of the area, this proved difficult. (See Land Types in Eastern Colorado, published in 1944, for a description of farming in the area during that time period).  You can read about life in Amache in this 1964 article from Colorado Magazine.  Other articles about Amache can be found in the Spring 1989, Winter 2005, and Autumn 2007 issues of Colorado Heritage, available for checkout in print from our library.  History Colorado, the publisher of Colorado Heritage, has also produced an online exhibit about Amache.

A 1943 report on public welfare in Colorado, available online from our library, takes a look at the internment's effect on social services in a section called "The Japanese Problem."  However, not everyone in government believed in the Japanese relocation concept.  Colorado's Governor Ralph Carr is remembered as one who stood up for the Japanese. 

Today, very little physical evidence is left of the Amache site, but it has not been forgotten.  Descendants hold an annual pilgrimage to Amache.  The site contains a museum and a cemetery, and visitors can take a driving tour with podcasts to guide them.  Numerous archaeological investigations are being undertaken on the site, and for more than 20 years students at Granada High School have done projects to assist with the preservation of Amache.

Japanese Americans have a long history in Colorado.  To learn their story, check out the book Colorado's Japanese Americans (University Press of Colorado, 2011) from our library. 






Historical photos of Amache/Granada Relocation Center courtesy of Denver Public Library Western History & Genealogy Department.

8/07/2017

August is Children's Eye Health and Safety Month

Back-to-school time is quickly approaching, and if you're a parent, chances are you're thinking a lot about school supplies, clothes, and lunches.  But don't forget about one very important thing your kid needs for the new school year:  good eyesight.  Children's vision can change as they grow, so a child who didn't need glasses one year might need them the next.  Therefore it's important to have your child's vision checked regularly starting at age 3.  The American Optometric Association suggests that parents be on the lookout for the following signs of visual problems in young children:
  • Sitting close to the TV or holding a book too close
  • Squinting
  • Tilting their head
  • Frequently rubbing their eyes
  • Short attention span for the child's age
  • Turning of an eye in or out 
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Difficulty with eye-hand-body coordination when playing ball or bike riding
  • Avoiding coloring activities, puzzles and other detailed activities
Many schools also offer vision screenings.  For information, see Guidelines for School Vision Screening Programs from the Colorado Department of Education.  Also, see the Department's Vision webpage.

8/03/2017

Colorado Governors: Edward McCook

Edward Moody McCook served two non-consecutive terms as territorial governor.  Originally from Ohio, McCook had come to Colorado during the 1859 Gold Rush.  He settled in Central City and set up a successful law practice.  He returned east to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War, attaining the rank of Brigadier General.  McCook received his promotion for gallantry at the battle of Chickamauga.  As General he commanded cavalry during Sherman's March to Atlanta, and then moved south through Alabama to Florida, where he accepted the surrender of Florida and served a short time as Military Governor.  It was during McCook's service in the Union Army that he got to know Ulysses Grant.

Following the war, McCook's acquaintance with Grant first earned him the appointment to the post of Territorial Governor of Colorado in 1869, which came after an appointment by President Johnson as U.S. Minister to Hawaii.  Grant removed Colorado Territory's preceding governor, Alexander Cameron Hunt, from office to appoint McCook in his place.  This did nothing to endear McCook to Coloradans, who had generally liked Governor Hunt.  In 1873 citizens put forth a petition to remove the unpopular McCook from office, and he was replaced by Samuel Elbert, son-in-law of former Territorial Governor John Evans.  (For more on the rivalry between McCook and Elbert, see this article from Colorado Magazine). After serving just one year, the popular Elbert was removed from office and McCook was reinstated. 

Despite his lack of popularity, McCook's governorship proved quite productive.  He was instrumental in developing Colorado's public school system, and both the Colorado School of Mines and the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind were created under his watch.  McCook prioritized funding for public schools, and created the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction.  (You can read the Superintendent's biennial reports online courtesy of our library).  W.C. Lothrop was the first person to serve in that position; today it is known as the Commissioner of Education.  McCook also established a Board of Immigration to promote Colorado, and was an early advocate of women's suffrage.

The Colorado State Archives writes that during McCook's second term, "political upheaval, grasshopper infestations that destroyed Colorado crops, and numerous mining disputes created an atmosphere of tension in his administration."  Therefore he was again removed from office, this time after only serving nine months.  During the remainder of his career McCook invested in mining, railroads, and telephones.  He died in Chicago in 1909 and is buried in his hometown of Steubenville, Ohio.

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