Category: Educational Fun

Michigan’s Groundhog Prepares for Perennial Prognostication

Michigan Department of Natural Resources

On a sky-blue February morning, with sunlight just hitting the tops of the trees, a sizeable crowd had gathered in the courtyard at the Howell Conference and Nature Center, located northwest of Detroit in Livingston County.

Michigan's groundhog is Woody, a female with an impressive track record of wintry predictions.The scene was festive, although a bit odd, with some people dressed in Hawaiian hats, shirts and leis, waiting for Michigan’s official groundhog to waddle out of its house and predict whether there would be six more weeks of winter.

It was a chilly day, a winter coat day. A man’s voice from a loudspeaker declared, “The moment is here.”

Excitement was building among the schoolchildren, parents and others huddling together just a few feet away from the viewing platform.

“Can you feel it out there?” the announcer asked the crowd. “I can’t feel anything right now, but can you feel it out there?”

The crowd replied, “Yes,” laughing.

Check out this sidebar story on Michigan’s woodchucks.

The prognostication, of course, is determined by whether the groundhog sees its shadow, which portends another six weeks of the year’s coldest season. No shadow signifies an early spring.

A small, but stylish, single-story, wood-sided house sat on a portable stage, amid rows of blooming blue, yellow and orange plastic flowers, a Christmas tree left over from the holidays and at least one plastic palm tree.

This home belongs to Woody the Woodchuck, or groundhog. Woody is a she and was born in the spring of 1998 and brought to the nature center’s Wildlife Clinic in June of that year.

“She will be 20 years old this year. We think it is because, like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, prognosticating groundhogs live forever,” said Dana DeBenham, the nature center’s wildlife director. “She was rescued by a farmer’s wife after her husband had shot the mother and the young pup came crawling out of the burrow.

“The woman kept Woody a bit too long and she became tame, preventing her from being released to the wild. Her favorite foods are bananas, peanuts, rodent blocks and corn on the cob, though she has to eat her leafy greens to stay in good shape.”

No doubt the crowd shows up at the nature center for the free continental breakfast, the kids’ costume contest and the chance to be there in person among the many revelers waiting for Woody’s wisdom to foretell the future.

“She’s checking you all out, looking at the clouds,” DeBenham said. “So, we’re ready to do this? Ready, set and go.”

Groundhog predictions don’t take long. Woody’s are usually completed within a couple of minutes.Woody is getting ready for a Groundhog Day prediction.

In 2017, Woody made a brief appearance in the arms of a DeBenham before retreating to her home, where she would stay. Having seen her shadow, the seemingly bothered groundhog retired to the warmth of her house.

The year before that, Woody stayed indoors again while the crowd shouted down a timeclock to a deadline for the prediction. Six more weeks of winter again.

“Her record is impressive! After a correct call last year of ‘six more weeks of winter,’ her record now stands at 15 correct predictions out of 19. This year will be her 20th prediction,” DeBenham said. “We do allow the groundhog to actually make the prediction by putting her in her ‘faux stump’ and giving her 30 seconds to emerge.

“If she is frightened by her shadow and does not come out, or runs back in, there will be six more weeks of winter. If she does not see her shadow and comes outside, there will be an early spring. It’s all very scientific at the Howell Nature Center.”

DeBenham suggests Woody’s proficiency with prognostication may be linked to her gender.

“We think Woody is exceptional at weather-forecasting because she is female and has that woman’s intuition about such things,” DeBenham said.

The Groundhog Day event has become increasingly popular at the nature center over the years, with as many as 150 spectators in attendance.

Watch videos of the Howell Nature Center’s prediction festivities from February 2017 and 2016.

See more information on the 2018 Groundhog Day Celebration at the Howell Nature Center.

Thousands of Cyclists Will Ride Toward a World Free of MS at Bike MS Events Throughout Michigan in 2015

Southfield, Mich. — Thousands of cyclists are expected to raise more than $900,000 to support cutting-edge research and life-changing programs and services for people living with MS at four major Bike MS events taking place throughout Michigan in 2015. Bike MS, hosted by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, is the premier fundraising cycling series in the U.S. for anyone seeking a personal challenge and a world free of multiple sclerosis. All participants have access to bike mechanics, support vehicles, rest stops, a finish line celebration and much more.

Attracting more than 100,000 participants nationwide, Bike MS is the largest fundraising cycling series in the U.S. Bike MS participants include people living with MS, their friends, families and neighbors, as well as corporate teams and individuals who are driven to help end MS forever.

There will be 100 extraordinary Bike MS rides across the country in 2015. National Bike MS sponsors include Primal Wear, Bicycling Magazine, TRUE Fitness, Genzyme | MS One to One, Kenda Tires, Topeak, and Showers Pass.

In Michigan, four Bike MS events are scheduled:

  • West Michigan Ride – June 6 & 7 / Hope College, Dow Center

The West Michigan Great Lakes Breakaway Bike MS Ride is a figure eight route designed to take you along the shoreline of Lake Michigan with route options of 30, 50, 75 and 100 miles each day. On Saturday riders head south through the town of Saugatuck and then along the scenic Blue Star Highway before heading inland to our rest stop at Fenn Valley Vineyards and Wine Cellar. Two-day riders will spend the night at Hope College and have an opportunity to enjoy the town of Holland. On Sunday, participants will take Lakeshore Dr. north then east, just south of Grand Haven. Hundreds of riders will enjoy breathtaking views on this scenic ride.  To make your ride a safe and memorable one, the Great Lakes West Michigan Breakaway Bike MS Ride is fully supported with SAG vehicles, bike mechanics and rest stops. After the ride, we invite all of our registered cyclists to celebrate and enjoy great food and festivities at the finish line celebration.

  • Mid Michigan Ride – July 11 & 12 / Milford High School (Highland Township, MI)

The Bike MS: Mid Michigan Great Lakes Breakaway is an out and back route designed to take you through the gently rolling hills of Mid Michigan.  Two-day riders may ride 75 or 100 miles each day and will spend the night at Michigan State University and have an opportunity to enjoy the Saturday evening festivities at our President’s reception at the Kellogg Center. On Sunday, two-day participants will head back along the same roads to finish at Milford High School. One day riders (Sunday only) will start and finish at Milford High School and their route will join in with those cyclists returning from East Lansing. All participants are welcomed back to Milford High School on Sunday afternoon with a BBQ celebration in their honor.   The ride is fully supported with catered rest stops, bike mechanics, full meals, and support vehicles. Invite your family and friends to cheer as you cross the finish line and enjoy a wonderful evening celebration. A fantastic finish awaits you with great food, music, and massages.

  • Fall Breakaway Ride – September 12  / Island Lake Recreation Area

The Fall Breakaway Bike MS Ride takes you through Island Lake Recreation Area. The Fall Breakaway offers cyclists a 12 and 24 mile road ride or 5 and 9 mile mountain bike trails for the off road riders. All riders will enjoy breathtaking views on this scenic ride. The spectacular scenery includes everything from open brush land to mature hardwood forest, with some pockets of open meadows mixed in. To make your ride a safe and memorable one, the Fall Breakaway Ride is fully supported with SAG vehicles, bike mechanics and rest stops. After the ride, we invite all of our registered cyclists to celebrate and enjoy great food and festivities at the finish line celebration.

  • Bavarian Breakaway Ride – September 26 & 27 / Frankenmuth, Heritage Park

The Bike MS: Great Lakes Bavarian Breakaway is a figure eight route that starts and finishes in Frankenmuth, Michigan’s Little Bavaria. You will enjoy this fast, flat route while riding through the serene roads and quaint towns such as Vassar, Mayville, Chesaning, and Otter Lake.  This will be a great event for the whole family whether you are cycling or decide to enjoy the city’s attractions and great shopping. A tent camping option will be provided outside the Harvey Kern Pavilion for both Friday and Saturday nights. Riders may also choose to make their own hotel or camping reservations (at their own expense) at a variety of lodging establishments in town.  After the ride, we invite all of our registered cyclists to celebrate and enjoy great food and festivities at the Finish Line Celebration. We have route options for cyclists of every level, ranging from 30-100 miles each day. The ride is fully supported with catered rest stops, bike mechanics, full meals, and support vehicles. Invite your family and friends to cheer as you cross the finish line and enjoy a wonderful evening celebration. A fantastic finish awaits you with great food, music, and massages.

There is a registration fee and $250 fundraising minimum per participant for Bike MS.  First time riders can register for FREE by using the discount code MIGT2R15.

For all the details and to sign up to ride, visit



How to Make This a Healthy Halloween for Our Kids

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADentist Has Tips for Preventing Dental Nightmares During this Season of “Tricks and Treats”

Chocolate, taffy, hard candy and the other abundant crunchy and sticky sweets during the Halloween season present constant hazards to our children’s fragile and developing teeth and gums.

“Halloween is where candy makers go to town on your kids’ teeth,” says dentist and national oral health care expert Dr. Harold Katz.

“It’s not their intention to rot your children’s teeth, but the yearly habitual and binge-like candy consumption can cause problems beyond weight and nutrition.”

Dr. Harold Katz shares often overlooked tips on how to help your kids get through Halloween without jump-starting dental problems, while teaching them good oral hygiene along the way.

• Three tips on preventing Halloween from being a dental nightmare. • Best practices for controlling the Halloween stash, doling it out over time. • How to use the holiday to teach good brushing and flossing techniques. • What are the worst candies and treats that your kids should avoid? • What treats are actually good for kids’ teeth? • Why are sticky candies so dangerous?

About Dr. Harold Katz

Dr. Harold Katz is widely recognized in the media as the “final authority” on breath and oral hygiene. He’s been featured on ABC’s Good Morning America, Fox & Friends, The View with Barbara Walters and countless other radio and TV shows across the country. Dr. Katz is a graduate of the UCLA School of Dentistry and holds a separate degree in Bacteriology, also from UCLA. He is the founder of The California Breath Clinics, the author of The Bad Breath Bible, and bearer of the now famous Halimeter which tests the sulfur compounds that cause bad breath.

Dr. Harold Katz is available for interview so please let me know if you would be interested in speaking with him.

Michigan Holds 2013 Cyber Summit

NOVI, MI — Gov. Rick Snyder announced the Cyber Civilian Corp, a rapid response team that would assist the state and industries across Michigan during a major cyber incident, at the 2013 Michigan Cyber Summit on Friday.

Hosted by Snyder and the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, the summit brought officials from the public and private sectors together to focus on the emerging issue of cybersecurity.

“Michigan’s leadership in the area of cyber security continues through this summit and our innovative action plan,” Snyder said. “Cyber threats are real and we must stay vigilant and proactive to help protect Michigan families and businesses from those who would use technology to do harm. By joining forces, public and private entities can address these threats and ensure a safer, stronger cyber environment.”

According to State of Michigan Chief Information Officer David Behen, the Cyber Civilian Corp would include volunteers from government, education and business. Information technology professionals interested in participating would be able to improve their skills by taking advantage of training through the Michigan Cyber Range.

Recognized as a national leader in cybersecurity, Michigan places a high emphasis on protecting the state’s computer systems, networks and data. The state’s centralized technology model places Michigan in a strong position to implement security efforts.

“Michigan’s cyber initiative is aimed at defending the state against cyberattacks,” Behen said. “Focusing on cybersecurity will help position Michigan to take advantage of opportunities in this growing and fast-paced and ever-changing industry.”

Data theft and breaches from cybercrime can cost businesses as much as $1 trillion globally. Government is no stranger to cyberattacks either. In fact, the State of Michigan blocked 568,724 cyberattacks daily from January to August this year. Attacks ranged from spam to web browser attacks to network intrusion.

Joining in the summit were Rami Efrati, head of the Civilian Sector Division of the Israeli National Cyber Bureau; Kelvin Coleman, branch chief, Government Engagement, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Cybersecurity and Communications; Maj. Gen. Gregory J. Vadnais, adjutant general of the Michigan National Guard and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veteran Affairs; Cheri Caddy, director of Cyber Policy Integration and Outreach of the White House National Security staff; Phil Bertolini, deputy county executive and CIO of Oakland County; and many private sector partners.

Additionally, nearly 40 students and four staff members from Oxford High School attended the summit, which served as the host event for the second meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA) Resource Center for State Cybersecurity Advisory Council.

The 2013 Summit, which took place at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, was a follow up to the sold out 2011 event which also served as the national launch for Cyber Awareness Month.

More information about the event is available by visiting:

Learn CPR and Relax into Summer Fun

The summer season means sunshine and lots of outdoor fun and activities, like swimming. But before you let your kids jump in, take a few moments to prepare yourself and your family by taking a CPR course.

During June, the American Heart Association is strongly encouraging Americans to learn proper CPR training by taking a course. Anyone can learn CPR – and everyone should! Sadly, 70% of Americans may feel helpless to act during a cardiac emergency because they either do not know how to administer CPR or their training has significantly lapsed.

This alarming statistic is heightened during the summer months with the threat of drowning while swimming. According to the Center for Disease Control, every day about ten people die from unintentional drowning. Of these, two are children aged 14 or younger. In fact, drowning ranks fifth among leading causes of unintentional injury death for people of all ages, and about 1 in 5 people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger.

The Heart Association offers a quick online Hands-Only CPR instructional video available at, but taking an actual class and getting certified in being a heart saver through the Friends and Family CPR course, will change your life! Actually knowing what CPR feels like and being able to administer the technique can provide a sense of relief and even confidence for parents and friends.

“Drowning happens quickly and can leave the heart in an abnormal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation,” said use Katie Connelly, Community CPR Manager at the American Heart Association. “I can’t stress enough that bystanders must call 911 immediately and start CPR. Do not stop chest compressions until emergency personnel arrive.” According to the Heart Association, for every minute that CPR is not performed on a sudden cardiac arrest victim, chances of survival drop 10 percent.

The Heart Association recommends the following water safety tips:

· Be prepared to perform CPR. Drowning is a leading cause of fatal injuries in infants, children and adolescents.

· Watch infants and children who are swimming at all times. Drowning can occur in minutes even in shallow water.

· No child is “drown proof” and the ability to swim does not prevent drowning. The drowning child often sinks quietly without screaming for help or thrashing in the water.

· Put life vests on your children. Children should wear life vests when swimming in natural bodies of water such as lakes and rivers. Children easily can be swept away by river currents and are very difficult to spot if they become submerged in lakes.

After learning CPR you can go to the beach or lounge by the pool with a bit more confidence in knowing you can save the life of your child if you had to.

The Heart Association encourages everyone to find a CPR training center. You can visit or call the American Heart Association at 1-877-AHA-4CPR to find a class near you.

A lucky Student Could Win A School Visit Featuring Detroit Lions Quarterback Matthew Stafford

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is seeking submissions for the second year of “Make the Play for Healthy Habits,” a video contest that challenges kids to answer the following question “What would you do to make Michigan healthier?” starting with the lives of family, teachers, and classmates. The winner will get a school assembly featuring Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Students, grades four through eight, can participate by submitting short videos no longer than two minutes long by March 29. Ten semifinalists’ videos will be chosen on March 29 and posted for public voting from April 8 to April 26. The winner will be announced on April 30.

Can you help us spread the word about this contest?

For more information, please visit

2013 Michigan Poetry Out Loud State Competition Coming to East Lansing

Later this month, the Michigan Humanities Council will welcome nearly 40 high school students to East Lansing for the annual Michigan Poetry Out Loud State Competition.

Poetry Out Loud is a national high school poetry recitation competition, and at this year’s state program, there are seven Upper Peninsula high schools that will be represented – the highest number yet! Those schools are: Calumet High School, Jeffers High School (Painesdale), Mackinac Island Public School, Houghton High School, Gwinn High School, Marquette Senior High School, and a home school group of Veritas, Decus, Bonitas Academy (Norway).

This event, which is free and open to the public, will be held at the Hannah Community Center (819 Abbot Rd in East Lansing) on Feb. 22-23. In addition, we will also welcome Detroit-native and poet Jamaal May to the program for a poetry reading and student writing workshop.

This program has so much pride and reaches beyond the memorization and recitation of poetry. It encourages students to master public speaking skills and learn more about literary heritage. I hope you can join us in celebrating the students’ achievements.

LANSING – On Feb. 22-23, nearly 40 high school students from across the state will arrive in East Lansing for a powerful poetry recitation competition and their chance to be named the Michigan Poetry Out Loud State Champion. Open to the public and free of charge, the competition will be held at the Hannah Community Center (819 Abbot Road, East Lansing), beginning at 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, and at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23.
Poetry Out Loud is a national high school poetry recitation competition of the National Endowment for the Arts and Poetry Foundation. It has been hosted in Michigan since 2005 by the Michigan Humanities Council and Michigan Council for Arts & Cultural Affairs. Since its first year in Michigan, more than
16,000 students have been involved.
This program isn’t just a powerful display of poetry; by participating in the program, students can master public speaking skills, develop self-confidence and explore literary heritage in a safe environment with their peers. In addition to the competition itself, students will have an opportunity to interact with Detroit-native and successful poet Jamaal May during a private writing workshop.
The Michigan State Champion will receive $200 and an all-expense-paid trip to compete in the national championship in Washington, D.C., and an opportunity to win a $20,000 college scholarship. The state winner’s school receives a $500 stipend toward the purchase of new poetry books. The state runner-up
will receive $100 as well as $200 for his/her school library. All Michigan competitors are invited to participate in the Michigan Youth Arts Festival. Michigan Youth Arts is offering partial scholarships for all competitors, and full scholarships for the four finalists to participate in the festival.
For more information on attending this free event or the Poetry Out Loud program, please visit www.michiganhumanities.orgor call the Michigan Humanities Council at (517) 372-7770.