Early Childhood and Climate Change Are Connected in More Ways Than You Might Think - EdSurge News (2023)

As world leaders return home from the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), an annual international climate meeting that was held in Egypt this year, they have many action items to attend to. But few, if any, regard one of the populations most vulnerable to climate change: young children.

This is a nexus—kids and climate—where research is becoming more and more robust, yet public awareness and understanding lag far behind.

Elliot Haspel hopes to change that, and soon. Haspel is a leading voice on early childhood education and author of “Crawling Behind: America’s Child Care Crisis and How to Fix It.” He recently joined Capita, a nonpartisan think tank, as a senior fellow where he will oversee the growth of the “Childhood Climate Fund,” the first global philanthropic fund focused on the intersection of early childhood and climate change.

For someone who is regularly sounding the alarm on urgent issues plaguing the field of early childhood education, from system-wide dysfunction to poor working conditions to uncompetitive pay, we wondered: Why climate change? Why now?

So we asked Haspel to tell us more about his interest in this intersection, and to explain why the fight to improve early childhood is inextricably linked to the fight to address climate change.

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This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

EdSurge: Your work is shifting to focus on the intersection of early childhood and climate change. Can you explain how the two are connected?

Elliot Haspel: Climate change poses enormous threats to early childhood development, so in my view, all of our efforts to improve child and family well-being are gonna be capped if we don't address climate change.

At the same time, I think the efforts to mitigate and fight climate change are really missing a grounding force in children and families. That's what I think the intersection is. The threats to young children in particular have been because young children—and I mean prenatal to age 8—are uniquely vulnerable to just about every impact of climate change. And that’s especially because of their biology. The developing brains and bodies of young children take much harder blows from things like wildfire smoke and air pollution, from experiencing natural disasters that are climate-enhanced, from having disruptions to their caregiving situations that are caused by climate-enhanced storms.

A good example is air pollution. Young children actually take in the particulate matter from air pollution at a much higher rate than older youth or adults because they breathe in and out quite a bit faster. They are smaller in stature, so they're closer to the ground, where the pollution concentrates. They're inhaling the particulate matter much, much more than adults. And it can not only mess with their physical development, like respiratory issues, but it also affects brain development. There are even some linkages between air pollution exposure in early childhood and the risk factor for mental illness later in life. These are really serious threats that young children are facing, which largely have not been addressed to date.

Beyond the physical and neurological impacts, what about the impacts of climate change on the experience of being a child?

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At a very raw level, there are simply more days of the year in most places in the U.S. that are so hot you can't reasonably go outside for very long, or there is such severe weather you can't go outside. Kids have fewer days that they could reasonably be outside playing in nature than they could before, and that’s for a variety of reasons: the number of extreme precipitation days, which are at historic highs, the number of extreme storms, the number of heat waves. Heat waves are getting longer. Heat waves are getting hotter. And all of that impacts childhood.

And then it also reinforces a kind of cycle where, if kids are not able to be outside regularly, then they're inside and they're often on screens. They're just not creating the same relationship with nature.

One example that's stuck with me is the Pacific Northwest “heat dome” last year, when the public pools had to close because the ground around it was unsafe to walk on. It has always been hot; we should be clear about that. But the sheer intensity and length of it is so much more that it is impacting children's relationship with nature, in an era where we already had what author Richard Louv called “nature-deficit disorder.” We already had concerns about kids being inside too much, on screens too much. Now climate change is really changing the way that they experience nature.

You've also written that a lot of kids are part of families that may be displaced by climate change. Can you say a little bit about that?

In addition to the horrific hurricanes, the extreme wildfires like the ones in California and Colorado, and the tornadoes that hit Kentucky, there's what I call the “everyday disasters.” And a lot of that is flooding. So in cities—Detroit was one where they really experienced that a couple of years ago—extreme precipitation is causing these huge flooding events. And if your house or apartment floods out, or certainly if your house burns down or is decimated, yeah, your entire life is turned upside down.

Groups like the American Psychological Association are very clear that young children, and children in general, experience the psychological impacts of natural disasters significantly worse than adults. It's hugely disruptive to the entire family and often causes all sorts of instability to the parents, which again impacts the kids. So the more that we see American communities ravaged by everything from these truly dramatic natural disasters to the more mundane, huge rainstorms, it's really going to continue to impact children. We’re having this conversation [on Nov. 17], right before Buffalo, New York, is scheduled to get several feet of snow, so the “global weirding,” as Katharine Hayhoe says, is certainly upon us and that really does impact children.

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The world’s most influential political leaders have been in Egypt for the COP27 climate conference. Are they, too, thinking and talking about the impact of climate on early childhood?

Not enough, if they are at all. There is a coalition of children's rights and children's advocacy groups that has been at COP, led by UNICEF. They are really trying to bring it front and center. This is the first COP at which there was a full children's pavilion. There was a 13-year-old who was able to present on the floor of COP for the first time.

So there are outside efforts to try to center children, which I think are great, but it's not a huge part of the conversation. And in particular, young children—a toddler, a preschooler—are not going to the floor of COP. So they are in some ways the most vulnerable and the most disenfranchised group or population of any humans. So I think there's a really significant need to put young children and their families front and center in the climate conversation.

What sorts of solutions exist? What is the likelihood that new solutions will emerge, and from where?

The first thing I'll say is that I think many of the solutions are out there in many of the most affected communities, right? Because they're having to deal with it. I heard from a doula in Louisiana who was talking about how doulas and midwives have had to handle hurricanes and how when someone goes into labor in the middle of a hurricane, they might be the only birthing professionals around who can help them. … In many frontline communities, many of which are communities of color, a lot of the solutions and necessary adaptations are happening already.

But that being said, I think there are a couple of buckets. One is thinking about our child care systems and what they need to be able to be resilient against the known impacts of climate change.

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We talked about air pollution, right? One way you can deal with air pollution is by making sure that every child care program and every pediatric health provider has a good air filtration system. In terms of the funding for that, I think philanthropy probably has a role to play in piloting some research and figuring out what the most cost-effective intervention might be. We already know how strapped child care programs are, so we can't ask them to take on another expense. But how can we improve air filtration in a cost-effective way? What are the ways we can help states and localities understand that this should be part of the funding that goes to these programs? And ultimately, should air filtration be a factor in a licensing decision or a licensing requirement for child care programs? That’s not going to happen on its own, but I do think philanthropy has a role to play.

The fund within Capita that we're incubating is funding a pilot project on air quality in Richmond, Virginia, which is working with Yale's Child Study Center on that issue, making sure that we're upgrading HVAC systems and particularly air conditioning systems in places that we know are getting hotter. So there are ways we can build resilience into systems.

Another example is we know that by greening schoolyards and playgrounds, by getting that asphalt out of there, adding in shade structures, and painting cooling materials on roofs and on roads that surround these places—there are ways we can combat heat island effects. So they’re out there, these solutions. It's a question of whether we can organize them as a way to make sure that all children are able to flourish in the era of climate change, as opposed to having them be treated as afterthoughts or isolated, unfunded or lightly funded interventions.

So that's one component. I think the question of parent education is another important one. I don't think parents—or child care providers, frankly—understand very well what impact climate change is having on kids. Often, when we talk about climate and kids, it's in some abstract future way of, ‘Well, we need to help the planet for the next generation,’ but the current generation is being harmed. Children are being harmed every day by climate change in the United States. And there's nowhere that's spared from it. And yet, I don't think it's a doom and gloom story. Knowing that we can actually make our communities healthier, we can make them safer, we can make them stronger, in ways that support child development and community beautification, will ultimately help mitigate climate change. So there's a positive story to tell, but I think we need to bring parents into it. And it starts with education.

For early childhood educators and advocates of early childhood education who may be skeptical that this is the issue to direct focus on within the field, when there is just so much else that needs addressing, what would you say?

Focusing on the climate is additive, in a couple of ways. One, it is supporting our direct goals as an early childhood field or sector. So it is supporting school readiness. It is having child care programs that are not flooding out or burning down or having their AC break so fewer kids are dealing with climate trauma from displacement or air pollution. All of that directly helps our goals of making sure that every child is having maximally positive early childhood experiences. And two, it also allies the early childhood field much more closely with the climate field. The climate movement is a better funded and more politically powerful movement than early childhood. And I think that tying the two together—the fate of caring for the land and the planet and caring for children—is potentially a very powerful reframe and a very powerful alliance that could really move together.

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That's my argument. Yes, look, the child care crisis is raging. I regularly wax poetic about the need for a fully publicly funded child care system. And I still am in that fight every day.

The climate writer Alex Steffen has a line that I quote a lot, which is that climate change
“isn't an issue, it's an era.” It subsumes all the other issues. So it's not like child care and early childhood education is just coming alongside climate, and it's just like, OK, now we're tying together issue A and issue B. No, climate is the context. And we have to reckon with that. And I think there's a way to reckon with that reality that actually will advance the goals of the sector. And if we don't, I think we're going to see a lot of our goals end up unrealized.

FAQs

Why should we teach younger generation about climate change and it's long term effect? ›

The climate crisis magnifies inequality, poverty, displacement and may increase the likelihood of conflict. 90% of diseases resulting from the climate crisis are likely to affect children under the age of five. By 2050, a further 24 million children are projected to be undernourished as a result of the climate crisis.

Why is it important to teach children about climate change? ›

As gradual adjustments are necessary for a united solution, they need to tackle climate change problems early on. Not only this but educating children about climate change will also provide them with societal responsibility.

Why is free play so important? ›

Free play creates an opportunity for children to explore their world in their own way and helps foster creativity and using their imagination, so Khanom and Zaman recommend starting at an early age.

What is guided play in early childhood? ›

Guided play refers to learning experiences that combine. the child-directed nature of free play with a focus on. learning outcomes and adult mentorship. Children thrive. when they engage in free play, which involves active.

What do you think can students do to contribute to preventing climate change? ›

18 Simple Things You Can Do About Climate Change
  1. 1) Bring your own bottle or mug. ...
  2. 2) Replace inefficient bulbs. ...
  3. 3) Turn off some lights. ...
  4. 4) Have a “2 degrees” goal at home. ...
  5. 5) Walk or bike somewhere you'd normally drive today. ...
  6. 6) Vote! ...
  7. 7) Plant something. ...
  8. 8) Take a hike.
8 Jan 2019

How does climate change affect child development? ›

Rising temperatures and decreased air quality affect kids by increasing asthma attacks and allergies, worsening pregnancy outcomes, creating food insecurity, increasing mental health problems, developmental delays, and changes in their genetic makeup.

How can children and students help the climate and environment? ›

Conserve energy in your everyday life.

Close doors immediately so heat does not escape. Take short showers. Walk or bike if you can (instead of having your parents drive you). Turn off your computer when not in use (don't leave it on just to keep Facebook or Myspace active).

Should children care about the climate change? ›

Climate change affects everyone, but it impacts kids the most. Children are especially vulnerable to environmental health harms since they are still growing and have higher exposure to air, food, and water based on weight.

Why is it important to teach children about the environment? ›

Teaching young ones today about the environmental impact of their daily life and the concept of sustainability helps keep them informed about potential future hazards such as poor air quality and polluted drinking water.

What happens if a child doesn't play? ›

Long-term impacts of play deprivation during early child development include isolation, depression, reduced self-control and poor resilience.

How do you plan a morning ring? ›

Morning ring starts with greetings, news, songs, weather and theme discussions. Ring time includes thinking skills, problem solving, sound games (phonics), creative thinking, descriptive language and vocabulary enrichment.

Why is being outdoors good for children? ›

Playing outdoors allows children to develop self-confidence, independence and self-esteem. They also become aware of limits, boundaries and challenge in their play. When children are used to playing outdoors, they are more likely to: try new activities.

What are 2 examples of guided activities? ›

Guided practice examples include reading aloud, using graphic organizers, doing experiments, and working through math problems together. Guided practice activities are listed below: Graphic organizers-When teaching a lesson on how a bill becomes a law, the teacher could explain the new concept with direct instruction.

What are the 4 types of play in early childhood? ›

Children learn and develop through different types of play.
  • Physical play. Physical play can include dancing or ball games. ...
  • Social play. By playing with others, children learn how to take turns, cooperate and share. ...
  • Constructive play. ...
  • Fantasy play. ...
  • Games with rules.

How can we help save the environment from climate change essay? ›

How To Prevent Climate Change Essay
  1. Make policies and agreements on climate change.
  2. Implement projects on clean energy.
  3. Create social awareness on climate change.
  4. Prohibit deforestation and cutting down trees.
  5. Conduct capacity building programs on climate change.
  6. Keep the surroundings clean.

How can you best contribute to solve the problem of climate change? ›

  1. Spread the word. Encourage your friends, family and co-workers to reduce their carbon pollution. ...
  2. Keep up the political pressure. ...
  3. Transform your transport. ...
  4. Rein in your power use. ...
  5. Tweak your diet. ...
  6. Shop local and buy sustainable. ...
  7. Don't waste food. ...
  8. Dress (climate) smart.
16 Dec 2021

How can we help to solve the problem of climate change? ›

What are the solutions to climate change?
  1. Keep fossil fuels in the ground. ...
  2. Invest in renewable energy. ...
  3. Switch to sustainable transport. ...
  4. Help us keep our homes cosy. ...
  5. Improve farming and encourage vegan diets. ...
  6. Restore nature to absorb more carbon. ...
  7. Protect forests like the Amazon. ...
  8. Protect the oceans.

What climate change means for children? ›

Climate change refers to the long-term changes in global temperatures and other characteristics of the atmosphere. Climate has changed throughout Earth's long history, but this time it's different. Human activity is causing worldwide temperatures to rise higher and faster than any time we know of in the past.

What are the 3 main impacts of climate change? ›

Earth Will Continue to Warm and the Effects Will Be Profound

The potential future effects of global climate change include more frequent wildfires, longer periods of drought in some regions, and an increase in the duration and intensity of tropical storms.

How can climate change negatively affect children around the world? ›

Climate change puts children's most basic rights at risk, seriously affecting their access to health, food, water, clean air, education and protection. Around the world, the growing number of extreme weather events is putting more and more children's lives in danger.

What are 5 effects of climate change? ›

More frequent and intense drought, storms, heat waves, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and warming oceans can directly harm animals, destroy the places they live, and wreak havoc on people's livelihoods and communities.

Who is responsible for climate change for kids? ›

The primary cause of climate change is human activities – like driving cars, creating electricity, and cutting down forests – not natural changes in the climate. These human activities release gases into the atmosphere called greenhouse gases, which slowly warm the planet, creating climate change.

How children are affected by their environment? ›

A child's body may not be able to break down and get rid of harmful contaminants that enter their body. Health problems from an environmental exposure can take years to develop. Because they are young, children have more time to develop health conditions and diseases than adults who are exposed later in their life.

How do you encourage children to connect their environment? ›

It is important to talk about the environment with children, and encourage an appreciation of its value and beauty. By creating a balance between natural, man-made and recycled resources in the play area, you will notice a change in the feel of the environment and how the children use and respond to it.

How can you support children to develop an understanding and care for the natural environment? ›

These may include:
  1. gardens where children can grow their own plants.
  2. sandpits for sensory, symbolic and physical play.
  3. digging patches where children can use garden equipment.
  4. a range of planting to encourage a variety of modes of play such as playing with gum nuts, small branches, flowers, stones and bark.
16 Jun 2021

How do you support children to become environmentally responsible? ›

Four simple ways to teach children to be sustainable include:
  1. Read storybooks with environmental themes. ...
  2. Discuss sustainability at home. ...
  3. Spend more time in nature. ...
  4. Start a veggie garden.
5 Mar 2021

Is it OK to let your child play alone? ›

Rest assured, it's perfectly okay to let your child play alone, even at a young age, as long as you're nearby and he's safe. So if your little one is looking at a book in his crib or sitting on the floor stacking cups (within ear- and eyeshot, of course), leave him be.

What happens if you dont play with your baby? ›

Our children risk lacking in emotional understanding and empathy. They may not be as resilient as they need to be. They may replace your influence in their lives with the influence of others. Playing with our children also creates a sense of safety and comfort that they will miss.

At what age do children stop playing? ›

A new study from the folks at Let's Play reveals that once kids hit age 9, they stop playing as often.

How do I start a class in the morning? ›

6 Tips for Your Classroom Morning Routine
  1. Morning Slides. As soon as students enter the room, they should immediately know what to do. ...
  2. Morning Greeting. ...
  3. Morning work. ...
  4. Consistent Daily tasks. ...
  5. homework turn in System. ...
  6. Daily morning meetings.

How long should a morning meeting be? ›

What is a Morning Meeting? Morning meetings are a schoolwide classroom management practice used to address students' social-emotional learning needs on a daily basis. Every morning, teachers gather their students in a circle (for 15 to 30 minutes) to interact with one another and kick-off the day.

What is school morning ring? ›

Morning Ring

Designed to promote cooperation within a group situation and to build confidence, language and listening skills. We discuss weather and news, show and tell, and prepare the children for various activities available to them that day. Morning ring also includes a discussion of the weekly theme.

What happens if kids dont play outside? ›

Children spending less time outdoors has been linked to decreased appreciation of our environment, health problems including childhood obesity and vitamin D deficiency, diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of emotional illnesses like anxiety and depression.

Do babies need to go outside every day? ›

Babies need fresh air and light, and they need to get out. A healthy baby can go outside every day, even in winter, as long as the temperature is not too cold (down to about –12°C) and it's not too windy. She'll be stimulated and distracted, and get plenty of oxygen.

How children's development is affected from a lack of connection to nature? ›

The lack of interaction between children and their environment results in negative health effects on young children such as "childhood obesity, asthma, attention deficit disorder/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and vitamin D deficiency, all of which have increased in prevalence in the US over the past few decades," ( ...

Why is it important for teachers to plan for natural sciences and technology lessons? ›

Students are asked to think about the abstract world and suspend many of their logical beliefs. Successful science lessons therefore require careful planning to ensure learning does not result in a cognitive mess.

How does teacher pacing of a lesson affect students and or classroom environment? ›

A good pace helps students feel like they are moving along. lesson objective and by moving from one to another throughout the course of a lesson you are “changing the pace.” Changing the type of work or activity, the method of presentation, or the way students are grouped creates interest and increase the pace.

Why is specific feedback important to student learning and growth? ›

How the feedback is given matters more than how much feedback is given. Focused, specific feedback helps students understand learning objectives, choose the best strategies for the task, make course corrections throughout the learning process, monitor their own learning, and determine where to go next.

What are the current issues in early childhood education? ›

Examples of Issues in Education
  • Education of Children who are identified as “Special Needs”
  • Education of Children who are identified as “Gifted and Talented”
  • Project-based Learning /Teacher-Centered.
  • No Child Left Behind.
  • Charter Schools.
  • Homeschooling.
  • School Violence (such as bullying prevention programs, zero tolerance)
30 Jun 2022

What are the 3 important components of an early childhood environment? ›

The three discrete components of a well-designed early childhood environment—the temporal, social, and physical environments—really do not stand alone. They're like ingredients in a well-designed recipe.

What is the most important foundation of early childhood education? ›

Socialization: A Key Component to Early Childhood Education

Children who take part in early childhood education programs have improved social skills. In a preschool setting, children learn crucial skills like listening, sharing, and taking turns with others.

What different types of play should be planned for in the early childhood environment? ›

Types of Play for Early Childhood Development
  • Key Points. Play isn't just one thing. ...
  • Play helps children learn and develop. Play is one of the best parts of childhood. ...
  • Unoccupied Play. ...
  • Solitary Play. ...
  • Onlooker Play. ...
  • Parallel Play. ...
  • Associative Play. ...
  • Cooperative Play.

What are the 5 stages of child development? ›

What Are the Five Stages of Early Childhood Development?
  • In general, the five stages of early childhood development are as follows:
  • Newborn.
  • Infant.
  • Toddler.
  • Preschooler.
  • School-age child.
8 Jul 2022

What are the 7 stages of child development explain each stage? ›

There are seven stages a human moves through during his or her life span. These stages include infancy, early childhood, middle childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, middle adulthood and old age.

Why is it important to educate the younger generation? ›

Education is important in eradicating poverty and hunger and in promoting sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth and sustainable development. Increased efforts towards education accessibility, quality and affordability are central to global development efforts.

Why do we need to take care of environment for the future generations? ›

Healthy ecosystems clean our water, purify our air, maintain our soil, regulate the climate, recycle nutrients and provide us with food. They provide raw materials and resources for medicines and other purposes. They are at the foundation of all civilisation and sustain our economies.

What will you suggest the younger generation in addressing environmental issue? ›

Recycle More Often

Rather than throwing everything in the trash, separate your plastic, paper, and metal waste, and deposit it in a recycling bin. Recycling helps reduce landfill pollution, raw materials and fossil fuel consumption, and generates a circular economy.

Why the younger generation is important? ›

Young people not only represent the future of our country, we are one of society's main agents of change and progress. We have a great effect on economic development too. In this stage of our lives, we build many social relationships and develop a personality that defines us as a new generation.

How can you promote education to the younger generation? ›

Volunteer with or mentor younger students

Education plays an important role in one's life, especially at a young age. It helps shape the future course of life. Volunteering your time and help is a great way to help ensure every child receives a quality education.

Why social media is good for the younger generation? ›

Social media benefits

Social media allows teens to create online identities, communicate with others and build social networks. These networks can provide teens with valuable support, especially helping those who experience exclusion or have disabilities or chronic illnesses.

How can we provide a better environment for the future generation? ›

Conserve electricity.
  1. Consume less. Curbing consumption can have a huge impact on the environment. ...
  2. Compost. ...
  3. Choose reusable over single-use. ...
  4. Upcycle more. ...
  5. Recycle properly. ...
  6. Shop secondhand. ...
  7. Buy local. ...
  8. Use fewer chemicals.

How can we help provide a better environment for the future generations? ›

Ten Simple Things You Can Do to Help Protect the Earth
  1. Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Cut down on what you throw away. ...
  2. Volunteer. Volunteer for cleanups in your community. ...
  3. Educate. ...
  4. Conserve water. ...
  5. Choose sustainable. ...
  6. Shop wisely. ...
  7. Use long-lasting light bulbs. ...
  8. Plant a tree.
11 Aug 2021

What will happen if we don't stop climate change? ›

The wildlife we love and their habitat will be destroyed, leading to mass species extinction. Superstorms, drought, and heat waves would become increasingly common and more extreme, leading to major health crises and illness. Agricultural production would plummet, likely leading to global food shortages and famine.

How will you promote environmental awareness to the youth of today? ›

They can make their homes, schools and youth organizations more environmentally friendly by adopting environmentally friendly practices, recycling of different materials as well as preserving resources such as water and electricity.

What is the best solution to address the environmental issue? ›

Recycle (& then recycle properly) Implementing recycling habits into your daily life is one of the most effective ways to help lessen landfill waste, conserve natural resources, save habitats, reduce pollution, cut down on energy consumption, and slow down global warming.

What is the biggest problem facing the youth today? ›

Stress & Time Management. Managing the pressure to succeed in every area of life and finding time to do it all seems to be one of the biggest challenges facing the youth today. Young people are expected to be successful, yet few of them are aware of effective time management.

How are the youth changing the society? ›

Young people are willing and able to contribute to this global agenda to end poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change by 2030.

What is the most important issue facing our generation? ›

TL;DR: Inflation is the top problem Gen Z and Millennials name as the biggest they are facing today. Over-dependence and addiction to technology ranked second as the top problem among young people for the first time. However, racism and COVID-19 are still top concerns for these gens.

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