Ready, Set … Think! Hackathon Aims To Kill Off Fake Health Rumors

A new drug makes teen girls collapse! And it’s secretly a birth control pill, part of a plan to reduce the national population.

Those are some of the rumors that revolve around the treatments for life-threatening diseases.

Now imagine you have 24 hours to come up with a plan to discourage people from believing the rumors and encourage them to seek treatment.

That was the challenge at this spring’s Hackathon, an international competition hosted by the Task Force for Global Health’s Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center. While the competition sounds very COVID-relevant, in this case, the event challenged participants to dispel misinformation surrounding diseases like leprosy, Dengue fever and schistosomiasis.

“Rumors and misinformation are threats to progress [against diseases] and are not a laughing matter. They cost lives,” says Moses Katabarwa, a competition judge who works at the Carter Center’s Uganda River Blindness program and has seen how misinformation prevents patients from taking life-saving treatments. “Well-proven ideas can be threatened unless we tackle [rumors] intelligently and wisely head-on.”

Fourteen teams participated in the virtual event, composed of up to four students in any major and from any school. They included students from Emory University in Georgia, the University of Buea in Cameroon and Aix-Marseille University in France.

A panel of public health experts looked at the solutions to see how innovative — and practical — they might be.

The first-place team won $2,000 and the chance to present their ideas in November at the annual meeting of the Coalition for Operational Research on Neglected Tropical Diseases. Second place also earned the opportunity to present the solution at the meeting but no cash prize.

Here’s what the top two came up with.

This pill pack is designed for you!

The winning team from Boston University had an idea for a better pill package. Clockwise from top left: Bridget Yates, Caroline Pane, Samuel Tomp and Julia Hermann. (Caroline Pane)

Getting people to take a pill to prevent elephantiasis is a matter of trust.

That’s what the winning team in the Hackathon found out.

Elephantiasis is a horrible condition, typically triggered by a parasitic worm. (The disease that causes it is called lymphatic filariasis.) If afflicted, a person’s limbs and genitalia swell. It’s very, very painful. In Tanzania alone, more than 6 million people are affected.

Taking the drug albendazole can help kill the worms. So why wouldn’t you take the pill?

Caroline Pane, a 20-year-old public health major at Boston University, and her three teammates analyzed a 2016 study where researchers recorded first-hand interviews with villagers in southeast Tanzania about why they did or did not accept treatment for the disease. Pane and the team recognized a recurring theme: The villagers didn’t trust the health officials or the drugs they were giving out. As one woman in a village said: “We don’t trust free drugs; they have been brought to finish us off.”

Other rumors, as noted in another study, were that the drug could cause infertility.

The team’s solution? Redesign the pill packaging to build trust and confidence among Tanzanian communities.

The students got the idea after watching an educational video on the mass distribution of the drug in Tanzania.

“[Health officials] take a big white bottle that’s covered in scientific writing in English to a village and just hand out pills,” Pane explains. “The writing is foreign to them; they don’t understand what it says. I probably wouldn’t take it either if I was them.”

In another study about the treatment that the team reviewed, one interviewee said, “There is no sign [on the drug] that it is for mabusha or matende,” the Swahili words for swollen scrotum and swollen limbs. “You have to trust in the government to swallow the tablets … the program doesn’t come with enough knowledge.”

To quell these fears and build trust, the team designed and proposed a single-dose pill pack with information about the pill’s purpose and side effects in Swahili.

The team also created a comic on the pill packaging to overcome any language barriers. The illustration shows how lymphatic filariasis spreads through the bite of a parasite-carrying mosquito, depicting a popular Tanzanian cartoon character who wears traditional African garb and jewelry catching the disease.

The team hoped that patients would be more willing to take the pill if they say a familiar character downing a dose.

Katie Gass, who helped design the Hackathon and is the director of research at the Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center, thought the idea was excellent.

“People don’t want a pill out of a random bottle dumped in their hand,” she says. “This was a very simple, elegant and community-focused idea.”

A rumor-finding tool — and a board game, too

Students from the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, Iran and the Complexity Science Hub in Vienna proposed a computer program to help locate the source of disease rumors. Clockwise from top left: Sina Sajjadi, Saeed Hedayatian, Yasaman Asgary, Alireza Hashemi. (Alireza Hashemi)

To stop rumors in their tracks, the second place team decided to map them.

The rumors were about schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions such as Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean. The disease is spread through contact with water contaminated by parasite-carrying snails and can cause anemia, malnutrition and even organ damage.

“The rumors are not about the disease itself, but about the cures and preventions health officials are trying to implement,” says team member Sina Sajjadi, 28, from the Complexity Science Hub in Vienna. “One that’s popular [across regions] is, ‘They’re trying to test their drugs on us.’ ”

He was one of the four physics, computer science and math students on the team, from the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran, Iran and the Complexity Science Hub in Vienna.

Instead of focusing on a particular rumor surrounding the disease, the group proposed mapping where rumors are prevalent to identify regions that need further education about the disease and its treatment.

“We focused on where the rumors come from, like Facebook or Twitter,” says team member Yasaman Asgari, 21, who attends the Sharif University of Technology in Tehran.

The team proposed creating a computer program to analyze online social media sentiments around treatments for schistosomiasis. The program would flag and map false claims using GPS data. Public health experts would then be able to pinpoint hot spots of misinformation – and create campaigns to address specific rumors. The team also suggested calling upon online influencers in the region to help dispel the falsehoods.

There’s one more part to their plan: making a custom board game to teach children to be cautious around water sources such as ponds and streams, which could be infected with parasites. In regions with schistosomiasis, all freshwater is considered unsafe unless it’s boiled, filtered or treated with chlorine.

“We would have different water sources on the board, as is the case for real-world villages,” explains Sajjadi. The goal of the game is to avoid interacting with water contaminated with the worms.

While the students say they did not pull all-nighters to complete the 24-hour challenge, Gass wants to give the Iranian team a special shout out.

“Hats off,” she says. They presented their work to the judges “when it was in the middle of the night for them.”


Nadia Whitehead is a freelance journalist and science writer. Her work has appeared in Science, The Washington Post and NPR. Find her on Twitter @NadiaMacias.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Mom-Approved Pediatricians


Best Pediatricians Atlanta

Atlanta Parent readers nominated their favorite pediatricians and pediatric specialists in Atlanta.

Here are more in-depth profiles on highlighted pediatricians from our June issue.

Pediatricians
Pediatric Specialists

Featured Pediatricians

CentreSpringMD

Dr. Tasneem Bhatia (Dr. Taz) uses an integrative approach to find a patient’s center –their core –empowering them to spring forth into health. CentreSpringMD’s team includes 9 board-certified providers, including Dr. Jennifer Franklin, a board-certified pediatrician, who will work to find you and your family the missing answers to your health.

Gwinnett Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine

Gwinnett Pediatrics includes 19 board-certified pediatricians at four locations in the oldest established practice in Gwinnett County. Each pediatrician provides traditional, conservative health care in agreement with recommendations and guidelines offered by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

InTown Pediatrics

Intown Pediatrics is a neighborhood practice offering convenient appointment times and after-hours advice to concerned parents. They are committed to foster healthy growth and development for all children.

Kennesaw Pediatrics

The entire team of staff and physicians provides exceptional pediatric care from the day your child is born until they enter college. Each pediatrician has a wide range of knowledge in everything from sports physicals to asthma care.

One Family Pediatrics

Dr. Lavania and her staff are dedicated to providing accessible, individualized healthcare to children and adolescents and empowering parents with knowledge about their child’s well-being.

Featured Pediatric Specialists

Chacko Allergy, Asthma and Sinus Center

Dr. Chacko helps make allergy symptoms a thing of the past! His practice handles all areas of pediatric allergy with a specialized focus in food allergy and food desensitization for children 9 months and older.

PENTA: Pediatric ENT of Atlanta

One of the leading pediatric ear, nose, and throat providers in the nation, PENTA has cared for thousands of children with common to complex ear, nose, and throat conditions. Nine convenient locations include four Rapid ENT Care Centers and four Hearing Centers of Excellence.

PEDIATRICIANS

Axelrod, Maria, MD
Kennesaw Pediatrics, Kennesaw
“Dr. Axelrod takes the time to show my daughter the ‘cool’ tools, talking with her, and gaining her trust.” Alyse C.

Bataille, Fredly, MD
Intown Pediatrics, Atlanta
“Dr. Bataille is so caring and wonderful with kids. Much of the check-in process is electronic. They have handled COVID well and allow you to wait in the car before your appointment.” -Laura R.

Benaroch, Roy, MD
Pediatric Physicians PC, Roswell and Alpharetta

Bergman, David, MD
The Pediatric Place, Johns Creek

Bhatia, Taz, MD
CentreSpringMD, Atlanta and Johns Creek
“Dr. Taz did an awesome job explaining everything and coming up with an extensive plan based on my family’s health needs.” -Nicole H.

Bien, Elizabeth R., MD
Pediatric Physicians PC, Roswell and Alpharetta

Biggs, Jennie, MD
Pediatric Physicians PC, Roswell and Alpharetta

Billingsly, Tiffini, MD
Premier Pediatric Associates, Atlanta

Blackwell-Ford, Brandy, MD
Wellstar East Cobb Pediatrics, Marietta

Bramwell, Anna, MD
Piedmont Pediatrics, Atlanta

Brown, Ashley, MD
Briarcliff Pediatrics, Atlanta

Brown, Jina, MD
Pediatric Physicians PC, Roswell and Alpharetta

Brugner, Briana, MD
Kennesaw Pediatrics, Kennesaw
“Dr. Brugner is a fabulous pediatrician!” -Alexa D.

Cabrera, Greg, MD
North Point Pediatrics, Alpharetta

Campbell, Jennifer, MD
North Point Pediatrics, Alpharetta

Chheda, Shefali, MD
Harmony Pediatrics, Alpharetta

Chin, Nicola, MD
Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta

Clark, Gerald H., MD
North Fulton Pediatrics, Roswell

Cline-Egri, Zachary, MD
Pediatric Physicians PC, Roswell and Alpharetta

Darby, Scott, MD
Gwinnett Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Hamilton Mill and Sugar Hill
“Dr. Darby is so devoted to his patients. He takes time to listen and is thorough and detailed. I highly recommend Dr. Darby.” –Selma M.

Doelling, Nancy, MD
Chastain Pediatrics Concierge Service, Atlanta

Ellis, Annisha, MD
Wellstar Pediatric and Adolescent Center, Austell

Faroqui, Mahnaz, MD
Gwinnett Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Duluth
“I am the mom of a special needs child with Down Syndrome; she is so patient and great with her.”  –Shelby H.

Fedack, Maryann, MD
Pediatric Physicians, Alpharetta

Franklin, Jennifer, MD
CentreSpringMD, Atlanta and Johns Creek
“Integrative medicine along with speech therapy for my son, who has allergies and apraxia of speech, turned our lives around.” -Tori P.

Gillman, Rachel, DO
Gwinnett Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Lawrenceville and Hamilton Mill
“We love Dr. Rachel! She took time to get to know my daughter before beginning the exam.” -Liz W.

Greenwald, Jodi M., MD
North Fulton Pediatrics, Roswell

Hall, Angela M., MD
Pearl Pediatrics, Powder Springs

Harley, Ronnika, MD
Wellstar Pediatric and Adolescent Center, Austell

Hassel McNeil, Stephanie, MD
Our Village Pediatrics, Canton

Heaven, Jordana, MD
Woodstock Pediatric Medicine, Woodstock

Herd, Hal, MD
Gwinnett Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Sugar Hill
“Dr. Herd is friendly and outgoing; he stays open late on Thursday nights.” -Elizabeth H.

Hill, Andrea, MD
Monroe Pediatrics, Monroe

Hines, Sivanthini, MD
Wellstar Pediatric and Adolescent Center, Smyrna

Jackson, Joanne, MD
Gwinnett Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Hamilton Mill
“Dr. Jackson is so patient and reassuring to us! She is a great support to our family.” -Ciara M.

Jackson, Vanna, MD
Sandy Springs Pediatrics, Sandy Springs

Jacobsen, Sara, MD
Gwinnett Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Lawrenceville and Hamilton Mill
“Dr. Sara is friendly and patient and relatable; my girls love her! As a parent, she’s not excitable and has a reassuring calmness about her.” -Amarie W.

Johnson, Wes, MD
Gwinnett Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Lawrenceville and Hamilton Mill
“His bedside manner puts children at ease. He exhibits a professionalism but still is very personal with his little patients.  Kids LOVE him.” –Angie L.

Johnson, Yolanda, MD
Gwinnett Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Hamilton Mill and Sugar Hill
“Dr. Johnson is a wonderful doctor and person. She takes time to listen and explain her findings. You never feel rushed.” -Joanna M.

Kazi, Megan, MD
Gwinnett Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Lawrenceville
“Dr. Kazi is so wonderful, my teenager loves her. She is thorough and we never feel rushed.” –Maya Z.

Kelly, Michelle, MD
Pediatric Physicians PC, Roswell and Alpharetta

Kim, Bob, MD
Stepping Stone Pediatrics, Kennesaw

King, David M., MD
Children’s Medical Group, Atlanta

Koenig, Allison, MD
Piedmont Pediatrics, Atlanta

Kubagawa, Homare, MD
Gwinnett Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Lawrenceville
“Dr. Kubagawa is so personable and really relates to my son. He feels safe and comfortable during visits.”–Jennifer H.

Lavania, Hiral, MD
One Family Pediatrics, Cumming
“Dr. Lavania and her staff are the best! She makes our kids feel safe and secure by talking directly to them.” -Kemia B.

Long, Mark A., MD
Kennesaw Pediatrics, Kennesaw
“We’ve been seeing Dr. Long from the beginning and enjoy Kennesaw Pediatrics” Julie N.

Makar, Stacey, MD
Zaman Pediatrics, Snellville

Mauer, Catherine T., MD
Henry Pediatrics, LLC, Stockbridge

McKinnon, Elizabeth A., MD
Preston Ridge Pediatrics, Alpharetta

Megahed, Mona, MD
East Cobb Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Marietta and Kennesaw
Harmony Pediatrics, Alpharetta

Molock, Suzanne, MD
Gwinnett Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Hamilton Mill
“Dr. Molock truly takes time to talk to the patients, no matter their age. She has come through countless times with excellent referrals and suggestions. Office hours are always convenient.” -Brittany G.

Muller-Dale, Stephanie, MD
North Point Pediatrics, Alpharetta

Overcash, Jill, MD
All About Kids Pediatrics, Lawrenceville

Pitts, John, MD
Kennesaw Pediatrics, Kennesaw
“Dr. Pitts takes his time and does things to make my kids smile and make them more comfortable.” -Samantha C.

Pollack, Deborah, MD
Dekalb Pediatric Center, Decatur

Price, LaKimberly, MD
Intown Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine PC, Atlanta
“Dr. Price is very kind and always warm; she is very knowledgeable.”  -Maribel M.

Quisling, Yvette, MD
Gwinnett Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Sugar Hill
“Dr. Quisling goes above and beyond to make sure that my kids receive the care that they need every time we visit her office.” -Lisa T.

Ransom, Lindsey, MD
West Atlanta Pediatrics, Lithia Springs and Dallas

Reisman, A. Gerald, MD
Dunwoody Pediatrics, Dunwoody and Alpharetta

Robbins, Regina, MD
Wellstar KenMar Pediatrics, Kennesaw

Roberts, Lisa, MD
Gwinnett Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Duluth
“Doctor Roberts has taken care of my 3 kids for over 10 years, and we all adore and trust her. She is willing to explain, answer questions, offer options, and always leaves my kiddos smiling.” -Traci W.

Saade, Daniel, MD
Wellstar West Cobb Medical Center, Marietta

Sellers-Scott, Adrene M., MD
Kaiser Permanente Southwood Medical Center, Jonesboro

Sells, Deneta H., MD
Intown Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine PC, Atlanta
“She is caring, family oriented, and very professional.” -Sandria R.

Shu, Jennifer, MD
Children’s Medical Group, PC, Decatur

Smart, Jennifer D., MD
Children’s Medicine PC, Suwanee

Smiley, Susan, MD
Gwinnett Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Sugar Hill
“Dr Smiley is so thorough, so proactive, kind, always happy and puts us all at ease. She listens to every question and concern, never rushes you or makes you feel like you are taking too much of her time.” -Cindy S.

Spandorfer, Philip, MD
North Atlanta Pediatric Associates, Atlanta

Stebbins, Stanton, MD
Pediatric Physicians PC, Roswell and Alpharetta

Stephansson, Reanne, MD
Pediatric Physicians PC, Roswell and Alpharetta

Stickney, George, MD
Gwinnett Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Lawrenceville
“Dr. Stickney always has a smile and is so patient with the kiddos. I am one of those moms with lots of questions and he never makes me feel like I’m losing my mind.” –Kialyn L.

Stolle, Ashley, MD
Gwinnett Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Duluth
“Dr. Stolle is kind, thoughtful, caring and takes time to listen to her patients. She makes an effort to understand the situation and make an informed diagnoses or referral.” -Amynah R.

Strauss, Peter, MD
Kennesaw Pediatrics, Kennesaw
“I love the hours that they offer on the weekends and that you can always get an appointment the day they you need it for a sick visit.” -Hope P.

Thomas, Jason, MD
Family Health Centers of Georgia, Atlanta

Thrower, Karen S., MD
East Cobb Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Marietta and Kennesaw

Vathada, Murali, MD
Kennesaw Pediatrics, Kennesaw
“I bring my granddaughter to see Dr. Vathada and he is so personal with her. The office is very kid-friendly and the office is open 7 days a week!” -Marie T.

Virgil, Teddi, MD
Kennesaw Pediatrics, Kennesaw
“Wonderful practice! From my first visit for my newborn, everyone was attentive, professional, friendly, and timely.” -Jacque F.

Washington, Keyana, MD
Gwinnett Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Hamilton Mill
“Dr. Washington is top notch, she is very attentive to my child’s needs, always has a smile and is very personable. Love all the GPAM doctors.” -Shelby H.

West, Kelly, MD
North Atlanta Pediatric Associates, Atlanta

Wilburn, Kelly, MD
Dunwoody Pediatrics, Dunwoody and Alpharetta

Williams, Wanda, MD
Kids First Pediatric Group, Stockbridge

Winn, Brian, MD
Peachtree Park Pediatrics, Atlanta

Winters-Smith, Lisa, MD
Kennesaw Pediatrics, Kennesaw
“Dr. Winter-Smith advocates for her patients and their families. She takes care of my son who has autism; she takes care and time and works around his needs.” -Renee H.

Yount, Sarah, MD
Kennesaw Pediatrics, Kennesaw
“The whole practice is extremely caring. From walking in the door until you leave, it’s always great dependable  Service. I can’t imagine ever going to another practice.” Dana T.

Young, Earl, MD
West Atlanta Pediatrics, Lithia Springs and Dallas

Zager, Sheri, MD
Pediatric Associates of North Atlanta PC, Peachtree Corners

PEDIATRIC SPECIALISTS

Aaron, Geoffrey, MD
PENTA: Pediatric Ear, Nose and Throat of Atlanta, nine metro Atlanta locations
“Dr. Aaron and his staff were very thorough! We were happy with our experience there and would suggest this practice to our friends.” -Eleanor P.

Bakthavachalam, Sivi, MD
PENTA: Pediatric Ear, Nose and Throat of Atlanta, nine metro Atlanta locations
“My son has been seeing Dr. Baktha for 6 years and had two ear tube surgeries and tonsil surgery. He is a compassionate and skilled surgeon.” -Nalini K.

Bauer, Erik, MD
PENTA: Pediatric Ear, Nose and Throat of Atlanta, nine metro Atlanta locations
“We love Dr.Bauer!” -Jessie J.

Berenson, Frank, MD
Panda Neurology & Atlanta Headache Specialists, Atlanta

Berg, Eric, MD
PENTA: Pediatric Ear, Nose and Throat of Atlanta, nine metro Atlanta locations
“Awesome doctor! Very patient and my daughter likes him!” -Joyce S.

Berland, Jerry E., MD
Thomas Eye Group, seven metro Atlanta locations

Byars, Thomas, MD
Pediatric Orthopedic Associates, 11 metro Atlanta locations

Chacko, Thomas, MD
Chacko Allergy, Asthma and Sinus Center, six metro Atlanta locations

Guillot, Lori, MD
PENTA: Pediatric Ear, Nose and Throat of Atlanta, nine metro Atlanta locations
“I have taken my children to several ENT doctors for ear and sinus problems and never got anywhere. Dr. Guillot took the time to listen and addressed each of my concerns. I have never met a more compassionate and capable physician.” -Mansi Z.

Harmon, Paula, MD
PENTA: Pediatric Ear, Nose and Throat of Atlanta, nine metro Atlanta locations
Dr. Harmon and her staff are excellent. I am a medical provider and am very picky about the providers I see. She is friendly, caring, and informative. -Leah P.

Hurwitz, Eugene, MD
Center for Allergy and Asthma of Georgia, 10 metro Atlanta locations

Ingley, Avani P., MD
Northwest ENT and Allergy Center, five metro Atlanta locations

Mehta, Tejas R., MD
Atlanta Gastroenterology Pediatric and Adolescent Division, four metro Atlanta locations

Parikh, Shatul L., MD
Northwest ENT and Allergy Center, five metro Atlanta locations

Phoenix, Vidya P., MD
Thomas Eye Group, seven metro Atlanta locations

Shakir, Asiya, MD
Atlanta Gastroenterology Pediatric and Adolescent Division, four metro Atlanta locations

Sheerin, Kathleen A., MD
Atlanta Allergy & Asthma, Lawrenceville and Sandy Springs

Sherrod, Olga, MD
GI Care for Kids, four metro Atlanta locations

Thomsen, James, MD
PENTA: Pediatric Ear, Nose and Throat of Atlanta, nine metro Atlanta locations
“Dr. Thomsen has seen my kids over and over and he has been great every step of the way.” -Shelly W.

Tritt, Ramie, MD
Atlanta ENT Sinus & Allergy Associates, PC, Atlanta

Videlefsky, Neill, MD
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Sibley Heart Center, Alpharetta

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10 Ways to Celebrate the Summer Solstice

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, June 20 will mark the longest day of 2021, heralding the official start of summer. Use these suggestions as a starting point to spark your own solstice ritual.

Plan a Scavenger Hunt

For smaller children, number or alphabetize clues leading to treats or summer supplies. Consider sunglasses, sunscreen, bug catchers, coupons for an ice cream outing or glow-in-the-dark necklaces. For tweens and teens, try a homemade coupon for a special privilege they have been begging to experience (maybe an hour later curfew or a zip line trip).

Eat Dinner Outside

A backyard barbecue is fun, but add to the festive feel with a change of scenery. Tune into nature on this day – pack a picnic dinner and head to a local park.

Try a Family Sun Salutation

A sun salute is an overall body stretch for the whole family, and kids will be amused while creating the yoga position called downward dog. Here is a simple version.

Make a Flying Wish

Write a wish down on paper and burn it, sending the wish into the sky. If the weather isn’t cooperative, there are wishing papers rise quickly and then disappear, and can be lit indoors. Try one from Flying Wish Paper. Another fun activity is wishing lanterns. Head outside with the family, make a wish and watch as the lantern floats away.

Start Summer Resolutions

Take your lead from the movie “Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer” (PG) and see if your family can develop a “Thrill Point List” for summer. What could you add to your list to make the summer of 2021 an exciting time for everyone? Pull out poster board and markers and let the creativity flow.

Stay up Until Dark and Stargaze

Check local observatories for summer solstice events. For novice star searches, borrow a book from the library to help you assess what you’re seeing, or use a free star-finding app such as Star Chart, SkyView or Night Sky Lite.

Rituals Often Involve Water

If nothing else, dip your toes in. How about a family battle using water balloons or squirt guns? Your willingness to let go and have fun can be a signal that the more relaxed days of summer are here.

Get Your Hands Dirty

It’s not too late to plant some produce or flowers. Consider planting in your vegetable garden for a fall harvest or add annuals to your flower garden to mark the occasion.

Bury Any Negatives

Has anyone in the family been struggling with something, such as a habit they want to leave behind? Write down any behaviors or experiences you want to put behind you and bury them. Use the solstice as a restart button.

Invite Friends to Join the Celebration

Remember to try and capture the “we always” when building a new family tradition. Kids love the tradition of “we always eat … ” or “we always do … ” a certain thing on a special day. Maybe you will always start solstice with a pancake breakfast. Ask your children for suggestions and they will likely come up with some fun options.

–Sue LeBreton

The post 10 Ways to Celebrate the Summer Solstice appeared first on Atlanta Parent.

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Guide to 2021 Outdoor Movies in Atlanta

Grab your lawn chairs and blankets and head out to one of these area parks for a free movie night. Check the websites before visiting for weather cancellations and COVID-19 safety precautions.

Movies on the Town

Town Brookhaven: 4330 Peachtree Rd. NE, Brookhaven
Movies start at dusk; registration requested.
June 10 – “Trolls World Tour” (PG)
June 17 – “Spider-Man: Far From Home” (PG-13)
June 24 – “Pitch Perfect” (PG-13)
July 1 – “50 First Dates” (PG-13)
July 15 – “School of Rock” (PG-13)
July 22 – “Raya and the Last Dragon” (PG)

Movies On The Square

Colony Square: 1197 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta
7-9 p.m.
July 1 – “The Sandlot” (PG)
Aug. 5 – “Grease” (PG)
Sept. 2 – “The Lion King” (PG)
Oct. 7 – “Hocus Pocus” (PG)

Flicks on the Bricks

Duluth Town Green: 3142 Hill St. NW, Duluth
Movies begin at 8 p.m.
Aug. 6 – “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” (PG)
Sept. 3 – “The Wizard of Oz” (PG)

Flicks on the Green

Peachtree Corners Town Green: 5140 Town Center Blvd., Peachtree Corners
Movies begin at 7 p.m.
July 3 – “Hook” (PG)
Aug. 7 – “Thor” (PG-13)
Sept. 4 – “Cars” (G)
Oct. 2 – “Labyrinth” (PG)

Movies Under the Stars

Honeysuckle Park: 3037 Pleasant Valley Dr., Doraville
Movies start at dusk.
July 3 – “Onward” (PG)
Aug. 17 – “Raya and the Last Dragon” (PG)

Outdoor Movie Series

Swift-Cantrell Park: 3140 Old 41 Hwy. NW, Kennesaw
Arrive at 6 p.m. for pre-show activities; registration requested.
July 24 – “Trolls World Tour” (PG)

Screen on the Green

Atlantic Green: 1380 Atlantic Dr. NW, Atlanta
Movie trivia begins at 6:30 p.m. with movie starting at 7 p.m.
June 10 – “Trolls World Tour” (PG)
June 24 – “Cool Runnings” (PG)
July 8 – “Grease: Sing-a-long” (PG)
Aug. 12 – “Spider Man: Into the Spider-Verse” (PG)
Aug. 26 – “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” (PG-13)

Movies at Newtown Park

Newton Park: 3150 Old Alabama Rd., Johns Creek
Movies begin at dusk. Gate opens at 6:45 p.m. for pre-show activities.
June 11 – “Onward” (PG)
July 9 – TBA
Aug. 20 – TBA
Sept. 10 – TBA

Movie Under the Stars

The Bowl at Sugar Hill: 5039 W. Broad St., Sugar Hill
Listen to live music before watching a movie.
June 11 – “The Princess and the Frog” (G)
July 16 – “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” (PG-13)
Aug. 13 – “Shark Tale” (PG)
Sept. 10 – “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” (PG-13)

Movies in the Park

Riverside Park: 575 Riverside Rd., Roswell
June 15 – “Moana” (PG) at Roswell Area Park Pool: 10495 Woodstock Rd., Roswell
June 26 – “Aladdin” (PG)

Feature Fridays

Lawrenceville Lawn: 210 Luckie St., Lawrenceville
Movies shown from 7-9 p.m.
June 18 – “Hidden Figures” (PG)
July 30 – “School of Rock” (PG-13)
Aug. 27 – “The Pursuit of Happiness” (PG-13)
Sept. 24 – “A League of Their Own” (PG)

The Avenue East Cobb Summer Movie Series

The Avenue East Cobb: 4475 Roswell Rd., Marietta
Arrive early for movie-themed fun and treats.
June 24 – “Scoob!” (PG)

Discount Movies

These theaters offer a chance to see recent or current movies without the expensive prices.

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Best Blueberry Farms Around Atlanta

Your family will love picking fresh berries right off the bush just like the classic children’s book, “Blueberries for Sal.” Locations around the Atlanta area offer inexpensive options for picking. Admission and farm activities may be extra.

Come ready to pick as many blueberries as you can collect! Berries are available until the bushes are picked clean, so make sure to call ahead or check websites before visiting. Blueberry conditions change from day to day. Maintain safe social distance practices and wear masks before visiting these farms.

Mercier Orchards

Head to Blue Ridge for Mercier Orchards’ Farm, which plans to have u-pick blueberries starting in June. Take in the beauty of the 300-acre farm with a tractor ride, and stop by the café or market for delicious food and treats. In July, you can also pick blackberries.

Southern Belle Farm

This McDonough farm has a two-acre blueberry patch for pick-your-own, or you can grab pre-picked berries at their market, which also has baked goods, jams, honey, fruit ciders and more. Visit with chickens, donkeys, cows, goats, horses and more at Belle’s Barn. U-pick begins on June 7.

Mitcham Farm

In summer, you can pick your own blueberries or blackberries at this cute farm in Oxford, 45 minutes east of Atlanta. Fresh produce also includes sweet corn, cucumbers, beans, okra, onions, peaches and more. They also sell homemade strawberry jam, local honey, frog jam, preserves and strawberry slushies at their Farm Stand.

Cool Springs Blueberry Farm

Cool Springs Blueberry Farm

Cool Springs Blueberry Farm

This Gainesville farm plans to open for the season on June 19. Blueberries and blackberries are available for u-pick or pre-pick. Enjoy refreshments and browse the gift shop with arts and crafts from local artisans. Blueberry availability for 2021 is limited.

Adams Farm

Since 1805, this family-owned farm in Fayetteville has been a staple for fruits and vegetables. In summer, head here for three varieties of blueberries, two varieties of blackberries and three varieties of raspberries. The market and u-pick fields are open Mondays through Saturdays, and u-pick is projected to run from June 1-Aug. 1.

Tuckaway Blueberry Farm

This family-owned and operated blueberry farm is located in Loganville with more than 500 rabbit eye blueberry bushes. They’re planning to open later in June.

Lone Oak Farms

Lone Oak Farms in Grantville is open seven days a week during blueberry season, which starts in July.

Fleeman’s U-Pick Blueberries

Travel to Winder to pick blueberries at this family-owned farm. Expected to open in mid-June.

These farms will not have blueberries for the 2021 season:

Berry Patch Farms

The history of this Woodstock farm began in 1978 when the owners bought 40 acres of land for blueberries, pumpkins and Christmas trees.

Washington Farms

This Bogart farm offers u-pick blueberries, and you can also grab homemade ice cream or kettle corn. Activities include a cow train, petting zoo, ziplines, wagon rides, games and more for family fun.

DJ’s U-Pick Blueberry Farm

This Lawrenceville farm offers u-pick by the gallon as you peruse the blueberry fields. Kids will love viewing the Scottish Highland Cows, Coco and Rudolph, as well as the goats, and you can even bring bread and veggies to feed them. They’re planning to open the second week of June.

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Best Family-Friendly Farmers Markets in Atlanta

Heritage Sandy Springs Farmers Market

Nothing beats the taste of fruits and veggies direct from the field, but you can also pick up sweets, homemade products and baked goods and more, which make these markets a destination for families.

Due to COVID-19, farmers markets have implemented safety measures, including social distancing, wearing masks, preordering or curbside pickup and more. Most are not offering their family-friendly attractions at this time, but instead are operating solely as food stores. Please follow safety precautions when visiting these markets.

Alpharetta Farmers Market

Herbs and flowers, dairy items, local produce, breads and sweets, live music, chef demos and special events keep families coming.
When: Saturdays, 8:30 a.m.-noon
Where: Town Green at City Center – North and South Broad St., Alpharetta

Dunwoody Farmers Market

Shop produce, breads, honey, peaches, candies, cookies, Indian food and more.
When: Saturdays, 9 a.m.-noon through Dec. 18
Where: Brook Run Park – 4770 N. Peachtree Rd., Dunwoody

Freedom Farmers Market

Freedom Farmers Market

Find a wide range of organic, local products, including produce, meats, cheeses, yogurt, butter, milk, eggs, baked goods, coffee and more.
When: Saturdays, 8:30 a.m.-noon
Where: Carter Center Library – 453 Freedom Pkwy. NE, Atlanta

Sandy Springs Farmers Market

Sandy Springs Farmers Market

Shop vendors for locally-grown produce, dairy products, meat, eggs, specialty foods and more.
When: Saturdays, 8:30 a.m.-noon through Nov. 20
Where: City Springs – 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs

Piedmont Park Green Market

Shop food vendors for seasonal produce, coffee, baked goods, meat, dairy and more.
When: Saturdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. through Nov.
Where: Piedmont Park – 12th St. and Piedmont, Atlanta

Marietta Square Farmers Market

In-season fruits and veggies, meats, cheese, pastries and more from 65 vendors lining the stalls just off the square.
When: Saturdays, 9 a.m.-noon
Where: 41 Mill St., Marietta

Peachtree Road Farmers Market

Shop in person or preorder a wide variety of produce, breads, meats, dairy items, condiments and art at this popular market.
When: Saturdays, 8:30 a.m.-noon through Dec. 18
Where: The Cathedral of St. Philip – 2744 Peachtree Rd. NW, Atlanta

Serenbe Farmers Market

Enjoy local and sustainable produce, artisan crafts, farm tours, chef demos and more. Drive through and pick up on Fridays from 3:30-5:30 p.m.
When: Saturdays, 9 a.m.-noon through Oct. 30
Where: 9110 Selborne Ln., Palmetto

Acworth Farmers Market

Local vegetables and fruits, plants, jams, jellies, baked goods, cookies and more at this downtown market.
When: Fridays, 8 a.m.-noon through Oct. 29
Where: Logan Farm Park – 4405 Cherokee St., Acworth

Atlanta State Farmers Market

Stretching 150 acres, the Atlanta Market is considered one of the largest of its kind in the world. It features a garden center, wholesale and retail activities and fresh produce.
When: Open 24 hours, 7 days a week
Where: 16 Forest Pkwy., Forest Park

Avondale Farmers Market

Local produce, baked goods, flowers, fruit and pet provisions are just a few of the vendors at this popular market in DeKalb County. Coloring books and sidewalk chalk, located at the information booth, keep younger kids busy.
When: Sundays, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Where: My Parents Basement – 22 N. Avondale Rd., Avondale Estates

Farmers Market at The Battery Atlanta

Local vendors sell prepared foods, artisanal bread, home décor, beauty products and more.
When: June 13, 27; July 25; Aug. 15, 22; Sept. 5, 19, 26, 1-4 p.m.
Where: The Battery Atlanta – 755 Battery Ave. SE, Atlanta

Bolton Road Farmers & Artisan Market

Shoppers come for the fresh produce, handmade crafts, and to visit with their neighbors.
When: Sundays, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Where: 2081 Bolton Rd. NW, Atlanta

Brookhaven Farmers Market

Live music entertains as shoppers browse for vegetables, fruits, fresh bakery items, eggs, seafood and more.
When: Saturdays, 9 a.m.-noon through Nov. 20
Where: 1375 Fernwood Cir. NE, Brookhaven

Courtesy of Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau

Canton Farmers Market

Purchase fresh fruits and veggies, prepackaged foods and prepared food vendors.
When: Saturdays, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. through Oct. 16
Where: Brown Park – 251 E. Marietta St., Canton

Clayton Farmers Market

Local produce, jams and jellies, fresh baked goods and local honey are featured at this market, along with herbs and spices, pottery and soap.
When: Saturdays, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Where: Covered Bridge Plaza – 46 Plaza Way, Clayton

The Market at Collegetown Farm

Live music, chef demos, produce, yoga and monthly health screenings draw crowds to this Friday farmers’ market.
When: Fridays, 2-6 p.m.
Where: 324 Lawton St. SW, Atlanta

Cotton Mill Farmers Market

Farmers within a 50-mile radius of downtown Carrollton bring fruits, vegetables, herbs, art such as stained glass, pottery and jewelry and much more to this weekly market.
When: Saturdays, 8-11 a.m.
Where: 609 Dixie St., Carrollton

Coweta County Farmers Market

The first Saturday of each month is Market Day, where you can shop more than 55 vendors.
When: First Saturday of each month, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. through Dec. 4
Where: 6 First Ave., Newnan

Decatur Farmers Market

Located on the front lawn of the First Baptist Church near downtown Decatur, shop produce and products or pickup items at this market.
When: Wednesdays, 4-7 p.m. through Nov. 17
Where: 308 Clairemont Ave., Decatur

East Atlanta Village Farmers Market

This colorful market offers produce, artisan foods, handmade soaps and local artist works to shop or for pickup.
When: Thursdays, 4-7 p.m. through Nov. 18
Where: 572 Stokeswood Ave., Atlanta

East Point Farmers Market

Sustainably grown local produce, baked goods, popsicles, coffee, and crafts are some of the many items available at this year-round market.
When: Wednesdays, 4-7 p.m.
Where: City Hall Green – 2757 E. Point St., East Point

Fresh MARTA Market

This pop-up farm stand appears four days a week in four MARTA stations, offering fresh produce to those who may not have time to visit a traditional farmers market.
When: Tues.-Fri., 3-7 p.m.
Where: West End (Tues.), H.E. Holmes (Wed.), West Bankhead (Wed.), College Park (Thur.) and Five Points (Fri.)

Grant Park Farmers Market

Weekly free celebrity chef demonstrations and great locally-grown veggies, meats, breads and artisan foods.
When: Sundays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Where: Beacon Atlanta/Eventide Brewing – 1039 Grant St. SE, Atlanta

Kennesaw Farmers Market

More than 20 vendors will offer vegetables, fruits, baked goods and specialty items.
When: Wednesdays, 3:30-7:30 p.m.
Where: Kennesaw First Baptist Church – 2958 N. Main St., Kennesaw

Lilburn Farmers Market

Enjoy locally grown and produced fruits, vegetables, herbs, jellies, breads, milks, soaps and more.
When: Fridays, 4-7 p.m. through Aug.
Where: 1400 Killian Hill Rd., Lilburn

Mableton Farmers Market

Purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, preserves, baked goods and more, and learn more about healthy eating habits and wellness.
When: Thursdays, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. through Aug. 12
Where: Mable House Complex – 5239 Floyd Rd. SW, Mableton

Morningside Farmers Market

All of the produce at Morningside Farmers Market is certified organic. You can also shop for meats, baked goods, flowers, fresh-baked goods, pasta, granola and more.
When: Saturdays, 8-11:30 a.m.
Where: Morningside Presbyterian Church – 1411 N. Morningside Dr., Atlanta

Norcross Community Market

Browse vendors online at this drive-thru market for produce, refreshments, bath and body products, eggs and more.
When: Saturdays, 9-11 a.m.
Where: City Hall – 65 Lawrenceville St., Norcross

Peachtree City Market

More than 60 vendors of fruits and vegetables, meat, coffee, honey, plants, BBQ and more.
When: Wednesdays and Saturdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Where: Aberdeen Village Shopping Center – 215 Northlake Dr., Peachtree City

Ponce City Farmers Market

This market hosts some of Atlanta’s finest local food talent, including farmers, food makers and pop-up chefs.
When: Wednesdays, 4-8 p.m. through Nov. 17
Where: The Shed on the BeltLine at Ponce City Market – 675 Ponce De Leon Ave. NE, Atlanta

Courtesy of Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau

Roswell Farmers and Artisans Market

Enjoy live music and chef demos while shopping for fresh produce, baked goods and more. Kids can collect stamps for the Kids Club educational program and receive a meal from a local restaurant.
When: Saturdays, 8 a.m.-noon through Oct.
Where: Roswell Presbyterian Church – 755 Mimosa Blvd., Roswell

Snellville Farmers Market

The Market features products that come from farms and gardens that are located, for the most part, within a 100-mile radius of Snellville. Sample barbecue, baked goods, breads and pick up fresh fruits and veggies as well as other types of produce.
When: Saturdays, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. from June 5-Sept. 25
Where: Towne Green – 2342 Oak Rd., Snellville

Stone Mountain Farmers Market

Shop local produce and handcrafted items.
When: Opening June 8. Tuesdays, 4-7 p.m. through June 29
Where: 922 Main St., Stone Mountain

Suwanee Farmers Market

Locally grown produce and a variety of other items such as meat, eggs, salsa, honey, and baked goods.
When: Saturdays, 8 a.m.-noon through Sept. 25
Where: Suwanee Town Center Park – 330 Town Center Ave., Suwanee

Tucker Farmers Market

Functioning as an online marketplace, shop produce, nuts, meats, baked goods, prepared foods and more.
When: Thursdays, 4-6 p.m.
Where: St. Andrews Presbyterian Church – 4882 Lavista Rd., Tucker

Vickery Village Farmers Market

Organic, locally-produced foods are the focus at the Vickery Village Market. Shop for produce, pasta, bread, beef, eggs and more.
When: Thursdays, 9 a.m.-noon
Where: 5855 S. Vickery St., Cumming

Vinings Jubilee Farmers Market

Shop from local vendors for produce, organic bath products, pasta and more.
When: Thursdays, 2:30-6 p.m. through July 29
Where: 4300 Paces Ferry Rd. SE, Vinings

Woodstock Fresh Farm Market

Locally grown produce available.
When: Saturdays, 8:30 a.m.-noon through Dec. 18
Where: Market St., Woodstock

Check back soon for updates on the 2021 season:

West End Farmers Market-ATL

West End Farmers Market Atlanta has cooking and craft demos, fresh produce, flowers and more, along with live music.
When: Fridays, 4-8 p.m. and Saturdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Where: Gordon-White Park – 1354 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. SW, Atlanta

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100 Days of Summer: Week 2

Summer at the Rock at Stone Mountain Park

Summer at the Rock

Starting on June 12, enjoy special summer entertainment and the nightly Lasershow Spectacular in Mountainvision at Stone Mountain Park’s Summer at the Rock. Performances include an action-packed Canine Thrill Show and an interactive magic show from Aaron Radatz, and experience attractions, such as Scenic Railroad, SkyHike and Summit Skyride.

Yoga with Animals

Move in the company of cute creatures.

  • Goat Yoga. For ages 15 and older. Serenbe Yoga + Bodyworks. Sat. and Sun.
  • Family Zoo Yoga. For ages 4 and older. Zoo Atlanta. June 12 and July 10.

Become a Mini Scientist

Immerse yourself in the wonderful world of science at Tellus Science Museum. Permanent exhibits include minerals, gemstones, fossils (the Fossil Dig reopens June 7), transportation technology and more. Special exhibits explore how science fiction became fact, space age inspired jewelry and how microorganisms work. Ages 8 and older can also participate in special archaeology events, available in June.

Free Bowling

Bowl a strike at metro Atlanta bowling centers that participate in the Kids Bowl Free program, which gives registered kids two free games of bowling every day. Find bowling centers in Atlanta here.

For the Chocolate Lover

Become a chocolatier for a day with Peterbrooke Chocolatier. Learn the history of chocolate, make your own truffles, decorate caramel apples, and dip cookies, pretzels and potato chips for delicious treats.

It’s Time to Paddle

Learn how to paddle, kayak, canoe and more with these experiences.

  • Try out canoeing at Chattahoochee Nature Center’s Summer Family Canoe Days. Learn paddling techniques and equipment, participate in races, and play practice games.
  • REI offers hiking trips, kayaking and paddleboard tours, classes on birding, biking, paddleboarding and more for the ultimate outdoorsy experience.

Sleep in the Trees

Spend a night in a treehouse for a unique staycation.

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How To Talk About COVID-19 In Job Interviews

It’s exciting to feel like we’re turning a corner with the pandemic! Summer looks like it’s back on track: restaurants packed with happy diners, gyms buzzing with athletes, and farmers’ markets alive with shoppers.

Job seekers are gearing up for a frenzy as well. The Society of Human Resource Manager’s (SHRM) Roy Mauer, refers to a “Turnover Tsunami,” explaining: “More than half of employees surveyed in North America planned to look for a new job in 2021.”  Likewise, Microsoft’s Work Trend Index notes that 40 percent of the global workforce is contemplating a job search this year.

If you plan to join the hunt shortly, it’s important to consider how supporting your employer through the pandemic has impacted your professional experience and how it has grown your skills. What did you learn while you powered through the pandemic? How did it make you a stronger, more resilient employee? How has the experience enhanced your professional skills?

It was a challenge to meet the demands that the pandemic heaped on workers from multiple directions. It takes debriefing, reflection, and soul searching to figure out what we learned and how we changed because of what we weathered. Here’s what to consider as you prepare for your post-pandemic interviews.

Check in with yourself.

Before you update your resume, revise your Glassdoor profile, and start searching for your ideal role; take some time to check in with yourself.  Before you gear up your reinvention, take a long pause.

Think about what you’ve been through during the last 15 months. What did your best day of the pandemic look like, and what made it so great? What did your hardest day of the pandemic look like-what made it so difficult?

Recognize, before you set your sights on the project of a job search, that we’ve been through a national trauma. We’ve all had to stretch our skills, patience, creativity, optimism, and resources to make this work. This is a hard experience to go through, but it grows us in important ways. Think about those. Give language to those.

Reclaim your center of gravity. Be honest with yourself about what you’ve learned, where you were challenged, and how you rose to the occasion. Get the help you need as you make sense of your experiences. Meet with a life coach, career coach, or therapist. Find clarity before starting your search, and use that to fuel your next chapter.   

Emphasize “soft skills” you honed.

These deserve a better moniker because “soft” doesn’t describe these capabilities. The only thing soft about these skills is that they stand in opposition to their counterparts; marketing, presentation, design, and project management are considered “hard skills.”  

Soft skills can be innate capabilities. They can also be learned and enhanced. They have been much discussed in recent years because these skills give human job candidates an edge over their AI competition.  Some soft skills include

  • Communication
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Adaptability
  • Resilience
  • Agility
  • Teamwork
  • Innovation
  • Work ethic
  • Leadership
  • Problem-solving

Many employees likely found that the pandemic was a crash course in soft skills development and enhancement. Some employees, for example, who were not in leadership roles before working remotely, may have found themselves stepping up and helping their teammates rise to the occasion.

Maybe you were among them. If you found yourself helping colleagues find their remote-work sea legs, or you helped fill communication gaps, these leadership skills are definitely worth mentioning in your next job interview.  Perhaps you recognized your own skills gaps and upskilled to meet the moment. The efforts you made to rise to the pandemic’s challenges are likewise important to discuss during your post-pandemic interviews.

Agility, flexibility, and resilience are also key soft skills. Many employees leaned on these heavily as they adjusted to the demands of the pandemic workload. “The global pandemic was the world’s biggest experiment in remote work, and it definitely has changed the way both employers and employees view work and the workplace. And, these views will likely continue to change as we all adjust to the post-pandemic workplace, which will likely be different than what existed before.” Explains Lori B. Rassas, HR Consultant, executive coach, and author of It’s About You Too: How To Manage Employee Resistance to Your Diversity Initiatives and Improve Workplace Culture and Profitability.  

Showing your potential employers that you are flexible and you know how to manage a crisis is impressive deftly. “[I]ndividuals seeking new roles should be certain to let prospective employers know that they are adaptable and understand the need to remain flexible as new policies and procedures are established. The reality is that most employers do not yet know what their future workforce will look like.” Rassas explains.

Make the case You can help prospective employers shape a future that is still emerging for them, just as you did during the pandemic. Look at the results you were able to achieve thanks to your soft skills. Then come to your post-pandemic interviews ready to discuss those skills and that data.

Discuss new hard skills you learned.

Maybe you had to greet customers, clients, or students. Perhaps your role was taking temperatures and ensuring that all guests, students, and participants followed protocol. Maybe you had to learn a new app or program to cover for a colleague who was taxed with another dimension of service. Perhaps Zoom was new to you, and now you’re using it to teach daily classes or facilitate meetings or workshops.

Whatever new skills you had to adapt to make operations run smoothly, those are important to mention during future interviews. You rose to the occasion. You made it work. You did all of this on the fly, and you learned about yourself, your skills, and your talents along the way.

Kyle Elliott, founder and career coach behind CaffeinatedKyle.com points out: “Employers are looking for candidates who can join their company and hit the ground running. Be ready to share a recent example of when you displayed your adaptability. If your current employer quickly shifted from in-person work to telecommuting, for example, you may consider sharing how you supported your team and customers in swiftly shifting gears.”

As you share these examples, make sure to mention any new hard skills that you learned or refined, which positioned you to take on new work.

Stay positive.

It’s revealing to navigate a crisis with an employer.  What do you learn about your employer and your colleagues by experiencing the pandemic together? Was the experience positive, negative, or a mix of both?

Why have you decided to search for a new role now? Mauer’s piece points to factors like disengagement, burnout, and the need for greater advancement opportunities, enhanced compensation, and increased benefits. Some common reasons that employees are looking for new opportunities. His article also points out that the pandemic delayed searches that employees likely would have launched if the pandemic had not disrupted their plans.

Whatever reasons you have for the timing of your search, it’s important to think about why you’re targeting a new role before you hit the interview circuit. This is always a delicate narrative to shape. You want to highlight any skills or leadership growth that you experienced while navigating the challenges that came with the pandemic.

While It may be true that your employer did not handle the pandemic well. Perhaps you and your colleagues were not managed or supported well enough, or isolation set in while your team worked remotely. Maybe your work on a team that was designated “essential,” and you had to remain on-site, where you did not feel that the team was well-enough protected from Covid. While these may have been negatives, they may have led to growth opportunities for you. The trick is to find a way to talk about the growth without speaking negatively of your former employer, which doesn’t reflect well on you during an interview. 

It’s healthy to do that emotional work and to decompress from your experience. You have room to reflect on where you think that your employer might have made different choices. But do that work outside of the interview situation.

Elliott offers this advice: “avoid the mistake of focusing on the negative aspects of the pandemic. Employers are seeking employees who are willing to roll up their sleeves during these unprecedented times. Demonstrate a willingness to remain flexible, open to change, and positive”.  Get whatever support you need as you let go of the trauma and put that into perspective. Then find a tidy and genuine answer about why you’re job searching.

You’ve got this!

Surviving and succeeding through a global pandemic is no small feat. While it felt exhausting and unrelenting, it can also build strength, skills, and focus. Make sure to acknowledge the rewards you’ve earned for weathering these challenges and emphasize them as you advance in your career. You’ve earned them.

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Go-to Guide: Tubing with Kids Around Atlanta

Traveling down the Chattahoochee by inner tube or raft is a great way to cool off. Do it yourself, or visit one of these companies for a relaxing day on the river.

Please note that because companies are taking safety precautions during COVID-19, you may experience longer wait times or reduced capacity for rentals. Be sure to check the website or call for special instructions.

Cool River Tubing, Helen

This tubing company sits right in the German-inspired town of Helen, and also has a zip line, water slide and climbing areas. After snaking down the Chattahoochee River, explore the town and have a taste of German food.
Cost: Purchase tickets at the Headwaters or Chattahoochee Outposts, and the Main Street Booth. $10-$16 per person; prices vary for other activities.
The Details: Open daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. The minimum age for tubing is 3.

Nantahala Outdoor Center

Float down the Chattahoochee River at one of NOC’s three outposts: Roswell at Azaelea Park, Powers Island or Johnson Ferry.  Kayak, canoe, paddleboard and raft rentals and guided trips are also available; book tickets online.
Cost: From $25 per person.
The Details: Open daily at 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Minimum tubing age is 8.

Chattahoochee River Tubing

Purchase tickets at the Abbots Bridge Road check-in area; a shuttle will take you to the put-in location for a four-hour ride down the Chattahoochee. Straps are available to tether your tubes together, or rent a 4-person raft.
Cost: $23 (4 hour trip)
The Details: Open daily 10 a.m.-7 p.m. (last trip leaves at 4:30 p.m.). Minimum tubing age is 5.

Helen Waterpark

This family attraction in Helen offers a 2.5-hour tube ride from 2 launch locations – Highway 75 N. or Brucken Street. While you’re there, enjoy the waterpark’s slides and activities.
Cost: $12-$16 per person for a single-tube trip (prices vary on weekends and holidays).
The Details: Open daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Shoot the Hooch

Tube the Chattahoochee on a 2-3 hour trip, from Power Island Park NPS to Paces Mill NPS.
Cost: Starting at $25 per person.
The Details: Open daily 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Minimum tubing age is 5.

DIY Shoot the Hooch

The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area is open for rafting and tubing from dawn to dusk during the summer; all you need is a life vest and raft or tube. Parking is $5 at any of the parking lot access points. Make sure to leave a second car where you decide to end on the river.

Check weather reports and call for dam water release information: This provides recommended calm water times for floating. Buford Dam: 1-855- 326-3569. Make sure you are in a safe location when the river begins to rise.
Minimum age to float down the river varies if renting supplies from a company; if not, it is up to parental discretion.
Ages 12 and younger must wear a life vest at all times. Ages 13 and older must have one in the raft or tube.
Rubber-soled shoes are a must for tackling slippery rocks.

Where to Go:
Abbotts Bridge to Medlock Bridge, 4 miles; 3-4 hours.
Medlock Bridge to Jones Bridge, 3 miles; 1.5-2 hours.
Morgan Falls Dam to Johnson Ferry, 2 miles; 1-2 hours.
Johnson Ferry to Powers Island, 3.5 miles; 2-4 hours.
Powers Island to Paces Mill, 3 miles; 1-3 hours.

Visit nps.gov or call 678-538-1200 for more information.

Appalachian Outfitters

Meet at Appalachian Outfitters’ Dahlonega outpost for a tube ride on the Chestatee River. A shuttle will take you to the put-in site for the 30-45 minute ride. If you want to do the trip again, take a 10-minute walk back to the beginning (or pay a $2 shuttle fee for each additional ride). You can also rent canoe and kayaks for trips on the Chestatee and Etowah Rivers.
Cost: $6 per person; $2 for additional shuttle rides.
The Details: Open Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The minimum age for tubing is 4.

Toccoa River Tubing

This tubing adventure is worth the trip to the scenic Blue Ridge area – take a 1.5 mile trip down the calm waters of the Toccoa river.  Single and two-person funyaks and kayaks are also available for rental.
Cost: $15 per person.
The Details: Open daily 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.; reservations are not required. The minimum age for tubing is 5.

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Voice, Chat and DM: Remote Learning Tools That Make Sense In Person

Understandably, many teachers were hesitant at the start of distance learning. Most saw only the new format’s deficiencies when compared to their physical classrooms. However, as educators adapted, many discovered new ways to teach literacy skills digitally. Some of these skills ended up being liberating, enlisting multi-modal forms of communication and connecting students in a uniquely online way. 

When the school year began online in fall 2020, Sylviane Cohn’s third grade class was just beginning to develop a skill of suddenly increased importance: typing. 

But Cohn discovered advantages to her students typing some of their assignments during virtual education. Watching her students’ writing appear on their respective Google Docs in real time meant she could provide simultaneous feedback. The process of editing on the computer — liberated from the messiness of revising on a piece of paper — made the process less burdensome and more enjoyable for her students.

Early in the school year, Cohn had her students type two or three sentences of a story. One line at a time, they added dialogue, imagery or other embellishments. The process encouraged her students to try new strategies and freed them from the space constraints of a notebook page. “Over the course of a couple of weeks, they were able to create these much longer, more nuanced and detailed stories than they ever could have created in one fell swoop,” she said.

Relieving Social Anxieties via Virtual Feedback  

Stacey Reeder, a sixth grade ELA teacher in Cincinnati, Ohio, observed that her sixth grade students suggested edits on each other’s papers more comfortably when separated by screens. The asynchronous aspect of virtual feedback not only allowed students to take their time when giving feedback, but to do it at their convenience.

Virtual feedback also removed the social barriers that may prevent students from wanting peer feedback. The fear of watching a classmate’s eyebrows furrow as they read was removed from the equation. Some students may have felt less anxiety when they shared personal anecdotes and didn’t have to then look their editors in the eyes.

“When it’s not face-to-face, kids can be a little more vulnerable and a little more specific about the feedback they give, because sometimes in sixth grade, it’s a social thing,” said Reeder.

Much like how anonymity can embolden people on social media, Reeder claimed, there was a level of vulnerability that can be tapped into when writers and editors are separated by screens. Added was the security that students knew that their teacher would see all given feedback, ensuring students’ comments remained kind and helpful.

After seeing the benefits, Reeder decided to keep asynchronous, online peer feedback as an option for the students who returned to her in-person classroom.

Hearing a Human Voice  

For her own feedback to students, Reeder began attaching audio notes to assignments. Her students appreciated the ability to hear feedback rather than just read it. Audio feedback also provided students with the option to scroll through their work while listening and to replay feedback while writing. 

Given the shortened instruction time of online classes, there wasn’t enough time for every student to fully express their thoughts on the reading or participate in a class discussion. So Maribel Parenti, a third grade teacher in Redwood City, California, assigned students audio reflections between one and three minutes, depending on the depth of response necessary, on Google Classroom. Students were asked to reflect on a book’s chapter, provide summaries or explain characters’ actions.

Much in the way students might participate in a classroom, Parenti’s students worked out their thinking by answering out loud. Parenti could check reading comprehension for every student through a metric designed to be less formal than a homework assignment or test. She could then give students feedback by responding to their posts with her own voice recordings, which she found faster to make than writing a response. In her feedback, Parenti could agree with a student’s argument or ask them to expand on certain points — to which her students could then upload an audio reply.

The assignment was specifically to check comprehension, centering thinking processes more than writing skills. Parenti prioritized verbal responses for her students who struggle with reading to increase their comfort with the activity. For her students at or above reading level, she would often write her responses to provide more reading practice.

Early in distance learning, Parenti assigned students handwritten responses, which she struggled to read when held up to the screen. Typed submissions stressed her students struggling with typing and spelling skills. She wanted to explore the different ways her class could have a conversation.

Through audio, she could also hear the voices of her students who tended to not participate in her virtual classroom. Her more reserved and anxious students appreciated the chance to fully participate without observation from their peers. Their responses were given and received privately.

“They’re just talking to themselves or to the computer and no one is seeing them,” she said.

Parenti planned to still offer this participation option when her classroom becomes fully in-person: students who don’t feel comfortable sharing their thoughts in class could have the opportunity to upload them online later, privately and in their own time.

Parenti also provided the option for students to upload video responses on Flipgrid. She called its features “Instagram for kids,” as students can add stickers, face effects and stock image backgrounds. Her students with humorous streaks appreciated the ability to sport virtual glasses and digitally change their hair colors. 

For one response, a student chose a newsroom background and delivered his answer with the formality of a nightly newscast anchor. Parenti shared his video with the class to provide inspiration. She watched as students shared ideas and tried out features or techniques their classmates used, receiving new insight into each student’s ingenuity. 

“Every single one of them is so different and they’re so creative that I’m just like, ‘Wow,’” she said.

The Upside of Zoom

Aeriale Johnson, a third grade teacher in San Jose, California, helped her students express their creativity through the Zoom chat. This feature specifically allowed students to participate during times when they’d regularly be unable to speak, such as when watching videos or listening to a book. Rather than hold their questions and wait to be called on — running the risk of forgetting or running out of class time — students could type their thoughts, questions and reactions as they came to them, uninterrupted, in the Zoom chat. 

During storytime, students put crying emojis during the book’s sad moments and heart emojis during sweet ones. When the class watched videos, Johnson joined them in the chat as they wrote what they saw, thought and wanted to learn more about. Her students asked questions about environmental issues, racial justice and the year 2020. Johnson would pause class to catch up on the chatbox feed, responding to messages and answering questions.

“That also shows you’re not just typing to a chat box for no reason, like, I value what you’re saying and I think that it’s important,” said Johnson.

Zoom’s chat also includes a direct message feature, which Johnson’s students used to talk to her privately. While in-person, a student could come up to her and ask to speak one-on-one, their classmates could still observe that this took place, decreasing the situation’s privacy. With direct messaging, students could ask questions they might not feel comfortable vocalizing in front of the class or typing in the chat.

Harini Shyamsundar, a secondary math teacher in San Pablo, California, shared that her students appreciated the chance to use the Zoom chat during the transitions and uncertainty of virtual learning. 

“[With] the newness of online learning and the kind of fear and uncertainty that students had around it, the ability to communicate using that chat tool, to privately communicate with the teacher to ask for help in this really not intimidating way, has been huge,” said Shyamsundar.

Using the Zoom chat as a forum space, Shyamsundar encouraged her students to describe concepts and communicate to solve problems. Her students’ ability to privately chat with her to ask for help was something she wanted to keep when her class becomes fully in-person. 

“They can maybe put it into some sort of form and I’ll have it on my screen and I can answer it to the whole class,” she said. “I think it would be a really great adaptation to continue.”

By March 2021, Johnson’s third grade class had started asking how to best replicate the chat box when moving back to in-person class. Her students proposed virtual tablets or whiteboards with dry-erase markers — anything that would allow them to respond quickly and occasionally use emojis.

Strategies for Thinking Visually 

Kristin Tufo, a middle school science teacher in Portland, Oregon, thought her students might be tired of seeing their own faces after virtual education. So she decided to transform the annual seventh and eighth grade science fair into a podcast series. The episodes tackle questions posed by kindergarteners: Why is snow white? Why is cotton candy fluffy? Why do farts smell?

Without video, her students must rely on their description skills to share their discoveries and relevant scientific processes — sharpening their writing skills.

“It’s good for their writing skills to have to describe things in such a way that little kids can picture it,” said Tufo.

While Tufo previously incorporated visuals into her teaching, her classes prior to virtual education prioritized discussion and demonstration. Wanting to provide visual aids to her lectures, she began taking notes on screen for her students to copy or use as inspiration. She included drawings, a practice known as sketchnoting, to illustrate processes like fossilization or chemical reactions. 

“Rather than just watching a video of something, the act of actually writing or trying to draw something that represents it should give them a higher understanding of the idea,” Tufo said.

Tufo turned to this process to convey her lessons and engage her students during decreased lecture times. Wanting to better imprint lessons in their minds, she encouraged her students to write their notes by hand. She cited scientific theories that visual aids and the act of physically writing assist with memory, as well as her training on the importance of the resistance of pen on paper in helping students with dyslexia.

With practice, some of her students who initially lacked confidence in their artistry found they enjoyed incorporating drawings into their notes. Some began sketchnoting in their other classes, too, she said.

Though she didn’t wish to dismiss the gravity of the pandemic, Parenti expressed gratitude that virtual education forced her and other teachers out of their comfort zones and encouraged experimentation with new technologies. These experiments, she expects, will influence education moving forward, like her own third grade class’ option for asynchronous participation.

“Now I have more tools under my belt that I’m going to be able to use with my students once we go back in person,” Parenti said.

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