New Farmer's Market on Long Island coming in June!

Starting on Sunday, the 27th of June, the town of Hicksville, in Nassau County, Long Island, will be offering a farmer's market, featuring Long Island grown fruits, vegetables, flowers, eggs, honey, cheese and bread from 9am until 2pm.

The market is located right near the LIRR Hicksville train station, at Kennedy Memorial Park, between Jerusalem Avenue and Broadway.  The market will run throughout the summer and fall, ending on November 21, 2011.

The market's website also features some excellent recipes.  Check them out here!

There is also a second market, in Long Beach, across from the LIRR Long Beach station at City Hall.  That market will be offered on Wednesdays from 10am until 6pm and Saturdays from 9am until 2pm.  That market begins the 4th of May until the 24th of November.

Please support your local farmers and businesses! Vote everyday on what type of community you want to live in with the power of your wallet!!

*And the power of volunteering!*

Mapoma 2011

What a beautiful spring day it was for the 2011 Madrid Marathon.  

A perfect day for running through the streets of Madrid; specifically Plaza de Principe Pio:

Winner in dark blue, Kenyan athlete, Moses Arusei, who ran the 42k race in 2 hrs, 10 min and 58 seconds. 

I was observing the race at the 25k (15.5 miles) point, at which time this group accomplished in 1 hour and 15 min!

I am inspired by these runners who travel and compete all over the world.  Who's ready to compete in a local 5k?  

I will be back in New York in June.  Please email me at if you would like to participate on the Aura Fitness team for any or all of the following three races:

"St. James R.C. Church 8th Annual 5k Run" on Saturday, June 4, 2011 at 8am in Smithtown, Long Island, New York.  Requested $20 donation and non-perishable item for the soup kitchen. ($15 donation and guaranteed t-shirt for signups before 5/20/11)

"Keith Nintzel Memorial 5k Run" on Saturday, June 11, 2011 at 8am in Sayville, Long Island, New York at Gillette Park.  Requested $25 donation and complimentary T-shirt. ($20 donation for signups before 6/6/2011)

"5k Run to End Hunger" on Saturday, June 18, 2011 at 8am in Wantagh, Long Island, New York at Wantagh Park.  Requested $25 donation day of the race. ($20 donation for signups before 6/12/2011)

Turn off the TV and walk 3,000 steps tonight after dinner!

Accountability in the Gymnasium

Getting children to live a healthy lifestyle is no easy task.  It requires committment, control, and consistency.  Parents, teachers and other community members must act as advocates for the health and well-being of the children and adolescents around the world. As a Physical Education and Health teacher in the 21st century, I am committed to my goal of reversing the childhood obesity epidemic and helping the students of America become more active and maintain a healthy weight.
I start my school year by gaining information about the current health and skills my students possess through the use of a fitness test.   This fitness test is given in the beginning of the marking period, and at the end of the marking period, in order to closely monitor results, provide feedback, and make changes as necessary.
Students are tested on their muscular strength using a one repetition maximum, muscular endurance using a ten repetition maximum, cardiovascular endurance using a one mile run, flexibility using a sit and reach test and body composition using skin fold calipers.  Using the information from the fitness test, I organize and plan a fitness program for each student.  Students use the data from their fitness tests to create a short term and long term goal and reward.  In order to provide the student with the maximum amount of social and emotional support, this plan is shared with parents or the caregiver at home.  
Students who score at above average fitness levels may chose a short term fitness goal such as 'improve performance time by thirty seconds on the one mile run'.  A long term goal would include 'running a 5k race'.  For students who perform at average levels, they may choose short term goals such as 'exercise more frequently with friends' or long term goals such as 'try out for the school soccer team'.  For students who are performing at low levels, more immediate intervention is necessary.  PHYSICAL EDUCATION TEACHERS MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE!  The school nurse and I work closely together to provide a total life solution that involves planning changes for improved nutrition, gradual weight loss, and behavior modification. For students with varying disabilities, I help them establish obtainable goals that improve their physical performance.  One such goal may be 'to jump rope ten times without error' if they struggle to perform that skill.
Throughout the marking period, for every unit, every student is fitted with heart rate monitors to exercise in the appropriate training zone throughout class.  These monitors measure how many calories were burned, how many active steps were taken and how much time was spent in each activity zone, ranging from easy to vigorous.  This objective information is recorded daily, evaluated on graphs and monitored on an ongoing daily basis by myself, but also students and parents.  In the event a student is not progressing according to my fitness plan by the middle of the marking period, I first speak to the student to see if a re-evaluation of goals is necessary.  Then, I work with the student during extra help hours to get them back on track.  Next, I contact home if the goals are still far from being completed and send the student home with an activity log for after-school hours.  Finally, I invite the family to exercise with the student during family activity nights to encourage cooperation and motivation from home.
Overall, I enjoy using heart rate monitors in my classroom because they are vital to successful physical education programs.  They provide for assessments of individual fitness levels, which in turn shifts the attention from athletic ability to personal improvement.  This is the ultimate outcome for developing positive, lifelong exercise habits.  

Teachers from all over the world..changing lives one child at a time :)

The Anglos with the Spaniards for a group shot outside the main plaza in La Alberca, España.  What a wonderful experience it was, to meet people from all over the world, 
and to share the same passion for the education of children.

Interview with Sergio Diaz Gonzalez, Secondary Physical Education Teacher in Castilla-La Mancha, Spain

Sergio was another Spanish participant of the English language teacher development program I led this past week.  He has been teaching for over nine years at the secondary level, specifically instructing for three years in English.  We had a nice conversation about the challenges of teaching teenagers, and what role sports play in the social and character development of young girls.  

Some thoughts from Sergio:

"Sport in the United States is different from Spain.  In the US it is all a show, a your popcorn and drink to sit and watch a match.  In Spain, no.  In Spain, it is much more passionate. You go to the match to feel the spirit in your heart."

"Physical conditioning, aerobics, dance and acrobatic/circus programs are offered for young girls in my physical education program."

"I train a basketball team after school, and we do not have any girls in the club.  They don't want to play.  They don't practice sports.  Some girls do athletics like swimming, but team sports, no. There are 30,000 people in my town, and there are no female teams."

"The education system should offer more sport opportunities for all children.  It would be better for children to practice one sport for one full year on a team.  It is important for them to belong to a [positive] group."

"In Spain, the girl who is really good at sports is considered like a boy, like a chicazo (tomboy).  To be aggressive, like a sport woman, very competitive that's not good for females.  That's not good because what are other people going to say, going to think about that girl? That's not feminine.  In sports and in life. Maybe an aggressive and competitive, intelligent woman frightens some men here in Spain. Maybe she knows too much, and it's hard to be with that type of girl."

"Women prefer rhythmic activities, not contact sports.  My job is to teach activities that students can practice on their free time, in order to stay in shape; not to be competitive.  Students solve tactical problems, look for solutions when playing two on twos, they must know how to develop a training session, how to build a workout for a month or two month period."

"Four components of fitness: Strength, endurance, flexibility and speed." 
(What about body composition?  Less focus on obesity in Spain???)  

"Body Composition is covered in another unit.."
Units: Anatomy and Physiology of body parts [organs], muscles, bones, 
           Cardiorespiratory System
           Central Nervous System
           Training Theory

"In the first course of Bachillerato when they are 17, students must combine all that they have learned from the previous year and prepare their own training program ."

"Smoking is very cultural here in Spain, especially when you are 14 or 15.  It makes you feel older, like a man, not a young boy.  But now, times are changing here in Spain.  Many people have decided not to smoke because they know it is awful for their health.  The laws make it inconvenient (no longer able to smoke inside restaurants and bars)."

"Teachers and parents are the enemies of teenagers.  The friends who are close in age are their confidants.   Teenagers must present the information to their peers about unhealthy habits (smoking, drinking, doping, drugs) in order to get the message across.  They build their own notes for their exam.  I don't tell them what to do.  Their friends tell them what to do." 

When asking Sergio about professional development, he explained an approach that sounds so foreign in our technology-driven society:

"I meet with other colleagues in town for a coffee, or in the teacher resource center at our local university.  I meet face to face with other Physical Education professionals to discuss better teaching strategies.  During university I got the most help from my old Physical Education teachers."

"There is a special feeling between Physical Education teachers that is unique to our field."

"Normally the student who is the bully is a problematic boy.  They most likely come from a family where the parents have problems.  Behind a boy with problems usually are parents with problems.  The parents normally come to school to speak with the principal and special counselor to deal with the problems of the boy." (Interesting how he kept using 'boy', and not 'student'). 

"The boy with problems may be changed to a different school.  But that doesn't solve the problem. That just sends the problem to another place.  Maybe it is good for the boy to find new friends, and a new environment where he can change.  His motivation might change, but normally, it's not the solution."

"We don't have that type of violence [guns] in schools.   We don't see it on the streets either.  Although with new immigrants coming to Spain with guns from Colombia, Latin America who work with drugs, times are changing from ten years ago.  But Spanish people don't use guns.  You can't just go into a store and buy one.  You need a special license, the police controls its use, the government controls its use.  It's not impossible, but very difficult to buy guns on the street. The main problems with education in Spain are in the big cities; Madrid and Barcelona.  Sometimes students bring knives (no guns) to school. But our schools don't have metal detectors or police officers.  Fortunately, we only see that in American movies."

"Sometimes parents don't care if their child is getting bad grades or not studying.  They are much more worried if their child is behaving and being respectful.  Many older Spaniards do not have a degree, and have lived a nice life working with their hands in the countryside.  They believe their children can find opportunities without education, but not without manners.  All of that is changing now though, with the economic crisis.  There are four times as many young people studying in night school now than last year, and more education is needed for the bigger cities."

"[In 2011] the money you have and the money you show are two different things.  But money still moves the world.  It was more difficult during the years of Franco.  Franco friends had a lot of power and money, and the rest of the people worked for them and suffered for them.  During this time, the society levels were more firmly established."

"We have a responsibility to help our students stay on the right path, and discourage them from turning to violence and drugs.  Our future happiness depends on it."

Interview with Jesús Saez Avila, Elementary Physical Education teacher in Castilla-La Mancha

Many skeptics of the push for bilingual education in Spain question the availability of resources and qualified teachers necessary to implement such changes.  Since 2008, Spanish teachers have been receiving training in the English language, along with American and British teaching techniques.  They also work with an English-language assistant one on one in their respective schools throughout the year.  
Jesús is a Physical Education teacher in a bilingual elementary school in the Castilla-La Mancha region of Spain.  He and I recently took part in an English-language teaching program in which he was required to think, speak and read only in English for eight [long] days in a remote town of Spain called La Alberca.  He and I sat down to speak about Physical Education, and our respective theories and practices in the classroom.  He did a great job keeping up with my New York accent, and was able to accurately articulate his thoughts and feelings.
Below, some thoughts from Jesús:
"We don't have a pool in our school, but we use the community pool in front of town hall."
"Futbol (soccer), basketball and volleyball are most important for gross motor skill development in older children.  It is important to expose children to baseball and badminton, sports that are not normally followed in Spain."
"We haven't got a project altogether, where you prepare in advance, what is the main content in every subject all connected; no.  We should do it [team teaching and interdisciplinary lessons], but it's so difficult because the Spanish system is different."
"Physical Education class in the morning runs for 55 minutes.  In the afternoon, 50 minutes."
"I tried to look for information [lesson plans] in the internet, but I only found youtube videos. The resources for alternative activities at the primary levels are non-existant.  Workshops are only held in Spanish, but I would like to learn how to teach in English, because that is what I am doing in the school."
What I got out of our conversation was:
PE in Spain needs:
field hockey
interdisciplinary and intercultural lessons
team teaching
accountability in the classroom
director supervision and observation 
respect and support from school and community--> PE is not just recess!
professional development--> websites for lesson plans
conferences and workshops for Spanish teachers instructing in English.

Danza en Madrid

I am way overdue with my review of Compañía Nacional de Danza 2.  Although better late than never, right? :)
On the 26th of March, I attended the final performance of this season's run for Compañía Nacional de Danza 2 at Teatro de Madrid.  This was a special treat for me, as this company is based here in Madrid, and rarely tours in the  United States.  Different from the parent company, CND, this smaller ensemble group is a pre-professional cast, meant to train dancers from conservatories and ballet schools for work with larger dance companies.  Their repertoire consists mainly of works by Artistic Director, Nacho Duato, yet also incorporates work of other promising young choreographers.  Nacho Duato trained at the Rambert School of London, Maurice Bejart's Mudra School in Brussels and my personal favorite, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in New York City.  His work is credited for being contemporary without being overly "artistic".  His piece, "Gnawa" happened to be my favorite, as it showcased the dancers' true artistic and athletic abilities; extensions, leaps in flight, synchronization; all set to rich and sensual Arabic music.
The program began with "Everything Might Spill", choreographed by Lesley Telford.  This piece was her first work for CND2.  It was an interpretative piece regarding the dynamics of human relationships, and how in one moment, the equilibrium and balance of society can be lost, and "everything" spilled.  From the beginning to end, the movements were static, abrupt, and chaotic.  At times, the dancers interrupted one another and the staging looked overly disorganized; thus distracting from the artistry of expression.  Further adding to the confusion, scenographer Yoko Seyama (with photos from Fernando Marcos), projected images of the dancers in static, sequential movements on the circular scrim, suspended in the middle of the stage.  The stage lights were off, the dancers were barely visible, and the shutter sound of pictures changing was louder than the monotone music.  It was an interesting idea to include added forms of media, but I think the choreographer should have relied on the beauty of the dancers, instead of relying on the kitschy nature of the scrim and photographs.  This piece left something to be desired, as there was no beginning, middle or end.  The audience did not see the time before the spill; only after.  We did not see the calm before the storm, which would have made the stormy parts of the piece more believable.
The show continued with "Fractus", choreographed by Luisa Maria Arias.  Like "Everything Might Spill", this was also a new piece for CND2.  This piece explored the lost and incomplete souls in a polluted world; souls that seek to find their true self amidst the darkness.  The set, costumes and music perfectly matched the theme of this piece.  The piece began with the dancers beneath a gray "mushroom" cloud/parachute, that symbolized a nuclear cloud.  As the dancers moved in gray, monotone and disorganized (yet synchronized) confusion, the fear of the unknown rose to higher levels among the audience members.  At the breaking point, dancers began to tear their gray clothing away, to reveal white costumes; the purity lying within us all.  Elisabet Biosca and Eliton Barros led a beautiful pas de deux with awe-inspiring leaps, height-defying lifts, and genuine chemistry; unusual for young and inexperienced performers.  Biosca and Barros demonstrated their true talent, and it is obvious they are here to stay on the international dance scene.  I enjoyed the juxtaposition between lightness and darkness, clarity and confusion.  For that, "Fractus" was enjoyable to watch; a perfect blend of "artsy" concepts without losing an inevitably necessary element of commercialism.
As I mentioned before, "Gnawa" was my favorite piece.  The best was certainly saved for last. This piece lacked the youthful (and inexperienced?) style the first two pieces shared.  "Gnawa" had a polished and mature tone, evidently formed since it was first premiered in 2004 for Hubbard Street Dance, Chicago.  The piece pulsated with exotic energy from the moment the dancers entered the dark stage carrying candles in Moroccan lanterns.  These lanterns were set at the furthest point downstage, and from there, the adventure began.  The Arabic words ran through one's blood; the music kept time with one's heart.  The female dancers had plain black dresses with tan accents, while the men had tan pants with black accents.  These costumes complemented the strong movements and themes of liberty and pride.  Reminiscent of an Ailey piece, it was exciting to witness the power of the dancers; athletic strength and precision showcased in breath-taking leaps, turns, jumps and lifts.  "Gnawa" neither relied on kitsch nor tired themes.  "Gnawa" simply exploded with the peaceful, loving and happy energy of the Mediterranean; and I am eternally grateful to have experienced the warmth of this piece.
Teatro de Madrid
Paseo de la Chopera, 4
28045, Madrid, Spain
Tel: +34 91 354 50 53
Thank you Teatro de Madrid for keeping the art of dance accessible and affordable to the city of Madrid!
Orchestra seats for only 18 Euros!

World Health Day-April 7th.

The month of April kicks off to celebrate the anniversary of the creation of the World Health Organization (est. 1948), with a specific focus on particular world health issues.  In 2011, WHO is focusing on:

Antimicrobial resistance: no action today, no cure tomorrow.

Antimicrobials treat infectious diseases.  Drug resistance threatens the effectiveness of medication and treatment methods used around the world.  Nations have made great strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, yet the misuse of antimicrobials have produced mutant strands of diseases; thus increasing health care costs, global suffering, and unfortunately, higher death rates.  With the on-going global economic issues and lack of philanthropy and/or government funding, many nations also have seen a resurgence of diseases previously erradicated or under control.

Reduce the transmission of infection in your household and community
Like Mama taught you when you were young, ALWAYS WASH YOUR HANDS!  Use warm water and soap (not hand sanitizer), and for at least 25 seconds (or the length of the "happy birthday" song).  Practice food hygiene; wash fruits and vegetables, wash your hands after touching meat, fish, eggs and do not eat moldy food.  Reduce the transmission of infection in your community by disinfecting your exercise space/machines at the gym.  Last, but not least, sneeze into your arm/elbow area, and not onto your hands!!  
Get your immunizations in order, especially meningitis if you are a resident of a college dorm.
Follow your doctor's instructions when taking antimicrobials.  When in doubt, don't be afraid to get a second doctor's opinion.
Don't eat animal products! (My apologies, that's a shameless plug for my fellow vegetarians/vegans).  Food-producing animals are injected with antimicrobials to prevent infections, which means when you ingest this type of food, your body is overexposed to antimicrobials, increasing your risk of eventual drug resistance. The World Health Organization recommends: the introduction of pre-licensing safety evaluation of antimicrobials with 
consideration of potential resistance to human drugs before injecting them into food-producing animals.  However, that costs money, which affects the bottom line, and you know how companies feel about their profits and bottom line!
WHO also makes this recommendation which is interesting: Ensure that only antimicrobials meeting international standards of quality, safety and efficacy are granted marketing authorization.  In countries with limited financial resources for research and development, perhaps the quality and efficacy of antimicrobials are compromised with lack of quality control.  People can't get the medicine they need and rely on bootlegged medicine that may cause more harm than good.  On the other hand, in countries with financial wealth, perhaps profit takes precedence over consumer safety (WHO strategy regarding pharma promotions: Identify and eliminate economic incentives that encourage inappropriate antimicrobial use).  People may consume too many antimicrobials, thus increasing drug resistance.  This forces the pharmaceutical company to research and develop a stronger antimicrobial, further perpetuating the cycle.  
As every country has varying standards on quality, safety and efficacy, it's difficult for the consumer to decide what types of antimicrobials to use.  In this case, it's best to err on the side of caution and get a second doctor's opinion if you are prescribed an unknown antimicrobial to treat an infection.  Or, research if the drug is used in Germany or Holland, as they are known to be countries with the strictest drug regulations.  You can also support pharmaceutical companies who support World Health Organization inspections.  After all, if they have nothing to hide, they should be fairly open, no?
Regarding pharmaceuticals, it's been a nice change of pace here in Spain reading magazines and newspapers or catching a bit of television without being bombarded with a plethora of pharmaceutical advertisements.  Although  I see a lot of lovin' around here; plenty of Spanish passion!  No wonder why they don't need cheesy commercials like this:

Have a great day, everyone!  Enjoy your blessings and the people around you.

Food shopping in Madrid..

Today I mixed oatmeal with blueberries, cashews and honey for a DELICIOUS, low-calorie breakfast.  

What do you like to put in your oatmeal?  I normally put peanut butter, but I have not been successful in my pursuit of purchasing the all-American staple at Eroski, Día, or Mercadona.
I also have not been able to find pretzels, feta cheese, rice milk or a Swiffer mop, but that's a whole other battle! :)

When you are traveling, is it hard to stick to your diet?  What foods do you like to prepare that are quick and easy?  Vegetarian or vegan recipes are especially welcomed!

Blessings always..