Merlino & Gonzalez - February 2020

LEAP INTO 2020 Facts About the Leap Year WHO The odds of being born on Feb. 29 are 1 in 1,461. That means that of the roughly seven billion people in the world, only about five million of them are “leaplings.” The number of leaplings currently living in the U.S. is roughly 187,000. Some famous leaplings include motivational speaker Tony Robbins, rapper Ja Rule, and singer Mark Foster of Foster the People. However, the most famous leapling is probably Superman. When you invent a super-being, you might as well give him a super-birthday. WHERE Anthony, Texas/New Mexico (a single town that straddles the two states’ borders), claims the title “Leap Year Capital of the World.” The city throws one massive birthday party for all leaplings but invites everyone to join the celebration. Two leapling neighbors from Anthony began the tradition in 1988, and it’s blossomed into a festival with thousands of participants every four years. It includes banquets, hot air balloons, a carnival, concerts, parades, and more. When you have four years to plan in between each shindig, there’s time to go big. Celebrate this leap year by doing something unusual or new. It’s a special day that doesn’t occur often, so make the most of it by doing something you’ll talk about for another four years.

Like the Olympics and presidential elections, leap years only occur once every four years, which is why many people look forward to Feb. 29. But there’s a lot that you might not know about this quirk on the calendar. WHY To keep the calendar in sync with Earth’s orbit around the sun, an extra day is added to it every four years. Earth takes exactly 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds to orbit the sun. Those extra hours add up over time, so another calendar day becomes necessary. But a leap year doesn’t occur every four years. Adding that extra day still doesn’t quite keep Earth on track, so the calendar skips leap years that occur during century years not divisible by 400. For example, 2000 was a leap year, but 2100 won’t be.

SCIENCE WANTS YOU TO STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES The Benefits of Spending Time Outside

In a 2008 survey conducted by the National Trust in Britain, children were more likely to correctly identify a Dalek from “Doctor Who” than a barn owl. Likewise, a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study of 8–18-year-olds in the U.S. found that the average youth spends more than 53 hours a week engaged with entertainment media. These statistics, coupled with growing concerns that children are spending less time outdoors, are leading to terms like “nature deficit disorder” and global initiatives to get kids outside. Why is contact with the outdoors so important? Researchers are answering this question by studying the benefits of time spent in nature. One benefit is that outdoor time helps kids understand boundaries and learn how to assess risk. As naturalist, author, and broadcaster Stephen Moss puts it, “Falling out of a tree is a very good lesson in risk-reward.” Not to mention, time in nature may help improve focus for hyperactive kids. In one national study of youths by the University of Illinois, participants’ attention deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms were reduced after spending time in a green setting versus a more urban one. This may be due to the fact that natural environments call upon our “soft fascination,” a less exhausting type of focus than what is required by urban environments. Emotional benefits were discovered too, including reduced aggression, increased happiness, and improved self-esteem. Beyond just getting outside, the type of contact we have with nature also matters. Visits to nature centers and watching “Planet Earth” are two ways to experience the outdoors. But research points specifically

to the importance of free play in the natural world: unstructured outdoor time when children can explore and engage with their natural surroundings with no curriculum, lesson, or activity to complete. Ever notice how kids are fascinated by the simplest things? A child visits a rose garden, but before they even get to the flowers, they become captivated by a leaf on the ground or an ant crawling on their shoe. Children are born naturalists. These are the moments we need to recapture. Take a page out of that kid’s book, and as the saying goes, stop and smell the roses — or leaves or ants — with no checklist and no plan, just time spent playing outside.

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