Saturday, December 29, 2007


YES magazine has an online newsletter that provides dozens of resources for teachers interested in Teaching Peace.

It is a wonderful and hopeful resource as we enter a New Year.

Youth Activism in Maine

Last Fall Lewiston Maine became the site for an inspiring youth/adult collaboration; it is called YADA for Youth + Adults + Dialouge = Action. Using materials from Pomfret's Study Circles the groups came together for structured conversation and action planning. I am excited to learn more about the goals they decide upon and how they are implemented.

The Maine Youth Action Network provides an enormous amount of resources for young people interested in becoming involved with established volunteer opportunities or interested in creating their own social change projects. MYAN provides many links and print resources, as well as organizing an annual statewide conference (in November).

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Mothers Movement Online!

Updates: The Mothers Movement Online
Resources and Reporting for Mothers and Others Who Think About Social Change

December 2007 Edition

By MMO Editor Judith Stadtman Tucker

The Renewal of Possibility, and The Caring Society

"The Caring Society" seems like a timely topic for the holiday season, which -- when stripped down to its essence -- is all about the renewal of hope and possibility. It's also one of those rare occasions when we're prodded to reflect on our common humanity, and allow our hearts to open; to remember that joy comes from giving as well as receiving; to acknowledge that there is too much bad in the world, but also the capacity to do great good; and to act from the understanding that of all human powers, love matters most.


The Caring Society
There are caring people in every society, but not all societies are caring societies.

Democratic Front-Runners Pledge Support For Working Families
Whether through first-hand hardships or as media consumers, Americans are waking up to the significant risks of raising families in a nation where protecting corporate interests takes priority over the well-being of workers and children -- and, at least among Democratic hopefuls, candidates in the presidential primary race are taking note. (Includes side-by-side comparison of the candidates' proposals.)

Camping While Black
I've tried to keep these harsh realities from my son; however, in retrospect, I wonder if that is that wise? As his mother and primary link to black history, culture, pride and pain, I worry I am making a grave mistake. My biggest fear is I'm not fully preparing him to cope in a racist society and thus he may walk straight into harm's way.


-- Social Insecurity:

In US, two-thirds of middle-class families face financial insecurity (plus: related articles); Study finds one-third of Americans are downwardly mobile - risk is greater for African Americans (plus: related resources and articles); Poverty, racial bias contribute to overrepresentation of African American children in foster care

-- Work & Family:

OECD recommends work-life reconciliation policies for family well-being, economic growth; Stressed much? Work, money and parenting are major source of stress for Americans; Business Week: Can you afford to raise kids?; More news and commentary on work, family, and public policy

-- Motherhood & Mothering:

Knocking yourself up, post-partum plastic surgery, and other madness

-- Reproductive Health & Rights:

Candidates on sex ed, more about sex, and other noteworthy items on women's reproductive health



Parentbling Magazines

I have a few complaints to lodge against the mainstream parenting magazine industry.

He Gets/She Gets
We negotiate schedules and chores with general good humor. But will there ever come a time when we won't be keeping an internal tally, an imaginary score sheet of what needs to be done and whose needs take priority?

Essays - we've got 'em. Check out the recent arrivals in the Essays directory:


Through The Looking Glass
I look like Hillary Clinton.

Mother-related Conferences/Call for Proposals

National Association of Mothers Centers
NAMC National Conference:
Mothers ’08™ – Thinking Beyond Ourselves & Beyond Today
April 4-6, 2008, Hauppauge, NY

NOW Foundation
Institute of Women's Policy Research
National Council of Negro Women
Summit on Economic Justice for Women
April 11-12, 2008, Atlanta, Georgia

Association for Research on Mothering (ARM)

Performing Feminist Motherhood:
Outlaw Mothers in Music, Media, Arts and Cultural Expression
May 16, 2008, New York City
Call for submissions: Proposals due 15 Feb 2008


The MMO welcomes reader mail

The MMO Resources section provides descriptions and links to 100+ high quality reports and articles related care & economics, care & politics, family & culture, public policy reform, work/family issues, workplace standards, organizations and more… the list is always growing. Find the information you are looking for.

Please press 'send:' Submissions from new and seasoned writers are oh so welcome. Submit your essays, commentary, book reviews or opinion pieces for publication in the MMO. For more information, visit the submissions page:

Topics and submission deadlines for upcoming issues appear below.


Deadline for submissions is FEBRUARY 1, 2007

Deadline for submissions is APRIL 1, 2007

The 2008 EDITORIAL CALENDAR is now available (in .pdf)

Email for more information.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Stereotyping Toys by Kim Gandy

NOW's Naughty List: Stereotyping Toys

Below the Belt: A Biweekly Column by NOW President Kim Gandy

December 21, 2007

For what I hope is the last time in 2007, I find myself asking: What year is this again?

I'm not talking about abstinence-only education, or Bush's appointment of birth control opponents to high ranking reproductive health positions, or even "purity balls" (although I may have to get to those someday soon). No, I'm talking about toys.

'Tis the season for abundant toy advertising and shopping, so naturally the NOW office has been abuzz about the ubiquitous "Rose Petal Cottage" TV commercials. If you haven't seen these ads, count yourself lucky. Honestly, if I didn't know better, I would think they were beamed in from 1955, via some lost satellite in space. Or maybe it's a deeply subversive parody that a clever (and rich) band of feminists snuck onto the airwaves in heavy rotation.

According to the makers at Playskool, the Rose Petal Cottage is "a place where her dreams have room to grow." And what might those dreams be? Well, baking muffins, arranging furniture and doing the dishes. The voiceover even declares that the toy house will "entertain her imagination" just before the little girl opens the miniature washing machine and says – I kid you not – "Let's do laundry!"

Now, I'm not knocking the important work of housekeeping, but this commercial is aimed solely at females (there are two versions -- one designed to entice little girls and one targeting their moms). Products like the Rose Petal Cottage and the marketing campaigns that accompany them perpetuate the notion that cooking and cleaning are women's work, and girls might as well start getting used to that fact at an early age. C'mon Susie, this scrubbing and ironing look like fun!

Of course the message of the Rose Petal Cottage would not be complete without its flip side . . . the Tonka 3-in-1 Scoot n' Scoop truck. This commercial states its theory right up front: "Boys. What can you say? They're just built different!"

The not so subtle concept is that boys are adventurous and unpredictable. Playing "their way" involves mischievous acts like pulling flowers out of the garden and tracking dirt across the kitchen floor. But thanks to Tonka, a boy can channel "what he does naturally" into sorting shapes and learning to walk. Yup, those sure sound like boys-only activities to me.

The idea that a girl might want to ride on a truck, or a boy play house, well, that's just too radical for most toy manufacturers. They prefer the status quo, thank you very much.

But what about toys that promote learning -- surely their marketing is more forward-thinking, right? Imagine my surprise when NOW received an email from a woman alerting us to the fact that even the Discovery Channel's online store organizes toys by gender beginning at age five. As the email writer explains: "Since the store is a major one for science and technology toys, I worry that it is just another way women are being discouraged from pursuing interest in science and technology at an early age."

Another disappointment is the makeover Dora the Explorer received recently. Yes, you can still buy dolls and products that look like the same Dora you see on TV, but now you can also buy an elongated and glamorous Dora, too. These new Doras are approaching Bratz territory, and that's disheartening. Dora is one of the few positive female role models in cartoons -- a smart, brave, curious girl who doesn't look like a supermodel in the making. Why must she be robbed of her uniqueness?

Take a trip through Toys "R" Us and pay close attention to the kinds of toys that are marketed specifically to girls or boys. The girls' section features dolls, fashion, jewelry, and a few crafts and other items that are best described as decorative. The boys' section contains cars, planes, sports equipment. These toys seem to value action, dexterity and skill. Many boys' toys literally and figuratively encourage them to reach for the stars, while girls' toys urge them to play at being stars, like the troubled pop princesses who rule our celebrity-obsessed culture.

To some folks, I might sound like Scrooge…disparaging decades of toy tradition. Or, this might sound like a pretty silly concern with everything else going on in the world. But the messages we send to kids as they are growing up have the power to influence the rest of their lives. And these toys do send a message about the roles of women and men in our society.

Through the world of toys, girls and boys are given separate dreams to follow. Girls are prepared for a future of looking pretty, keeping house and taking care of babies. Boys are given a pass on that domain, and instead pointed toward the outside world of challenge, physical development and achievement.

A lot of this has to do with making money, I'm sure. After all, if girls and boys don't share toys, families with kids of both genders have to buy twice as many products. But it's also about promoting difference between the sexes. Our society, heck, the whole world, still isn't ready to give up the standards that define gender and all the rules and customs that go with it.

Women will never be fully equal until we, and all of our society, stop restricting our children's aspirations based on their sex, and constantly directing them toward predetermined roles. It starts with pink and blue baby clothes, then dolls and trucks. Next thing you know, boys and girls are being segregated into separate classrooms and schools because they "learn differently." Then, they enter the workplace with an outlook that can only perpetuate division and derision.

Girls and boys both will benefit if we offer them limitless options. They will grow up to be more fully developed people if we give them the freedom to discover who they are, without the stress of tightly patrolled gender borders.

As I write this, 2008 is on the horizon, and it seems like a fine year to expand our vision of what girls, women, boys and men can do beyond our outdated, unimaginative conventions. And we can start with something as innocent-seeming as the toys we buy our kids this holiday season.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Whole Child Initiative

ESR Partners with ASCD on the Whole Child Initiative
ESR has joined the 22 national organizations who have joined with the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) as partners in the Whole Child Initiative, to engage the public and advocate for a whole child approach to education wherein educators, schools, parents, policymakers, and communities work together to ensure students are healthy, safe, engaged in learning, supported by caring adults, and challenged by a well-balanced curriculum. Please visit to learn more about the initiative.

Connected and Respected Trainings from Educators for Social Responsibility

Educators for Social Responsibility E-News
December 2007

UPDATES! Connected & Respected in the Elementary Classroom Institutes
ESR invites elementary educators to explore Connected and Respected: Lessons from the Resolving Conflict Creatively Program. This curriculum, helps students develop the qualities of character, and social and emotional competencies that are not only vital to their academic success, but to their success in building and maintaining relationships and making positive contributions to their communities and the world.

Registration for the following institutes will open mid-January!
Long Island, New York on Monday, March 10, 2008

Chicago, Illinois on Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Old Lyme, Connecticut on Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Eastern Massachusetts (Marlborough) on Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bay Area, California (Hayward) on Monday, April 14, 2008

San Diego, California on Thursday, April 17, 2008

Atlanta, Georgia on Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Northern New Jersey (Totowa) on Thursday, May 22, 2008

New Orleans, Louisiana and Richmond, Virginia to be determined!

For more information please contact Nicole Day at 617.492.1764 ext. 30 or

Contact Governor Baldacci about proposed budget cuts

Given the horror of hunger in Maine, as well as rising home heating costs, the growing income and wealth gap and the importance of maintaining education and basic social services in our community, Governor Baldacci's proposed budget cuts are terrifying to me. (See the Press Herald article as well).

There are alternative ways to balance the budget (use the comments to share your best ideas ~ I favor raising income taxes on income in excess of $1,000,000) yet almost no alternatives to government for preserving a safety net, maintaining the health of our community and our children.

Send your thoughts to Governor Baldacci!

(See resources at the non-partisan Maine Center for Economic Policy for clarity about the State Budget, taxes, wages, etc.)

Hunger in Maine - Resources for Teaching

Brita, from Born to Read, left a comment about resources for talking with children about hunger (check out her comment in the previous post). There are obviously several dimensions -- talking with kids who are hungry about their experience, problem solving hunger, and talking with kids who are NOT hungry about hunger as a personal and social problem. It is so hard to know what is developmentally appropriate - how to shelter kids from problems too big for them and at the same time empower them to be change agents from the start.

Heifer International offers Read To Feed for kids between the 3rd and 6th grades. They offer lesson plans for teachers, as well as online games and book ideas for kids. (Maine was a Read to Feed state in 2005- 2006 but does not appear to currently be involved.)

Feeding Minds, Fighting Hunger is another site dedicated to global hunger awareness. They provide lesson plans for all ages and a list of great looking links.

Kids Can Make a Difference has a list of "action ideas" for kids as well as more curricular resources.

The Hunger Task Force has an article about teaching hungry children about hunger, as well as links to many resources including a book list for children's books (and adult books and curricular resources) by 2nd Harvest

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Children's Hunger in Maine

Our holiday season has been filled with food, from Thanksgiving to the endless supply of extra cookies and sweets. We've worried about excess calories and too much sugar. Then, while cleaning the kitchen (and feeling slightly bitter about it), I happened to hear a Speaking In Maine program that reminded me what a luxury it is to have too much food and opened my eyes to a somewhat invisible but growing-at-crisis-speed problem in our communities - hungry children, hungry families.

You can hear the show by scrolling down to Dec 18th and listening as a podcast or on your computer:

Panel Discussion: "Poverty and the Two Maines"
Broadcast Date: Tuesday, December 18, 2007

We’ll hear a panel discussion titled “Poverty and the Two Maines.” The discussion was presented by the Harward Center for Community Partnerships at Bates College in Lewiston. The panelists discuss the issue from their perspective and share thoughts about how the problem of poverty in the state can be addressed. Panelists include: Hannah Pingree, House Majority Leader of the Maine State Legislature; Sarah Standiford, Executive Director of the Maine Women’s Lobby; Naomi Schalit, Opinion Page Editor for the Kennebec Journal; and Eric Smith, Congregational Outreach Coordinator, Maine Council of Churches.

The Kennebec Journal has a 7 part series describing the growing crisis Maine families face. Statistics are grim:

With a 3.3 percent increase in the number households experiencing hunger, Maine had the highest percentage growth rate of hungry people in the country between 2000 and 2005. Five years ago, we had 430 food pantries in this state; now we have 600. According to the University of Maine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, from 2002 to 2005 the number of Maine households receiving food stamps increased by almost 50 percent; nationally, food stamp use increased by only 26 percent from 2000 to 2004.

In the past four years, the proportion of students eligible for free and reduced school lunch increased each year on a statewide basis as well as in most counties. More than one-third of the state’s school children were eligible during the 2005-06 school year for the free and reduced school lunch program. Almost half of all students in Somerset, Washington and Piscataquis counties were eligible.

Maine Students Take on Name Calling

From Teaching Tolerance:

Mix It Up Grants for Students
Earlier this year, 56 students and twelve teachers from Maine's Lincoln Academy participated in an experiential learning day in order to raise awareness and tolerance levels in their school, thanks to a Mix it Up Grant. Plagued by verbal harassment, slurs, and degrading language, students at Lincoln Academy admitted their, "school climate was becoming hostile and confrontational". The smaller group of students and faculty shared their lessons with the entire school throughout the semester, resulting in greater personal responsibility, cross-group understanding and compassion for others.

Students (like you and those at Lincoln Academy) know better than anyone what social boundaries are like in their schools and communities. That's why the Mix It Up Grants Program gives away thousands of dollars each year to student-led activist projects. Get a $500 Mix It Up Grant to support your project!

They also e-mailed a great pep-talk for 2008:

Poet Maya Angelou reveals--

I don't know if I continue, even today, always liking myself. But what I learned to do many years ago was to forgive myself. It is very important for every human being to forgive herself or himself because if you live, you will make mistakes-it is inevitable. But once you do and you see the mistake, then you forgive yourself and say, 'well, if I'd known better I'd have done better,' that's all (1995).

As we reflect on this past year, let's think of our glass as "half full" instead of "half empty." Let us be proud of the accomplishments we made, and forgive ourselves of any faults. Let's learn from our mistakes-as well as those of our friends, families, and even teachers-and make a positive change in 2008!

Sunday, December 16, 2007


Tis the season... and so much of the focus is on buying and getting. In the midst of it, I was glad to stumble on the beautifully illustrated children's book "Mama, I'll Give You the World. by Roni Schotter and illustrated by S. Saelig Gallagher.

The story is about Luisa and her hard-working and slightly sad mother. Luisa's mother reminds her that she is saving money for Luisa to go to college : "Mama wants Luisa to learn everything." But Luisa is smart and listens carefully. She has already learned that mama is a bit lonely and nostalgic for her younger days. Luisa plots with Mama's coworkers and plans a surprise party for her. Although the book is slightly precious and it feels like Luisa is carrying a large load, the author keeps the text light enough and suspenseful enough to engage kids and grown-ups and the ending is so happy and full of mother-daughter connection that it inspires kids and adults to remember how good giving can feel.

[Other books featuring single moms are reviewed at Myrtle Jane Chicken, Literary Maven]

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Healthy Toy Site

(From MomsRising)

Dear member,

Sadly, one of the big stories this holiday season has been an epidemic of "toxic toys" -- exposing children to everything from lead to the date rape drug GHB. We've been horrified, not only at what this says about our national priorities, but also as moms we're left asking: "What toys are safe to buy for my own kids??"

That's why we're thrilled to tell you about a new text-for-info service we've just set up. Our friends at HealthyToys.org1 tested over 1250 toys for common chemicals and have made the results searchable online. Because the time you really want to know which toys contain dangerous chemicals is when you're shopping, we've partnered with them to make their database searchable via your mobile phone. Here's how it works:

Text healthytoys [toy name] to 41411

And we'll reply instantly with whether the toy tested "high" "med" or "low" for potentially dangerous toxins. Try it! Text "Healthytoys Elmo flashlight" to 41411. You'll get a reply right back to your phone with the test results for the Elmo flashlight by Sesame Street. Neat, eh? Take it with you shopping and tell your friends!

Then sign this petition to tell Congress, "We demand safe, lead-free toys for children. Congress must strengthen the agencies responsible for protecting kids from toxic products and remove the bureaucrats who are standing in the way." We should be able to buy our kids toys off the shelf without having to wonder whether they're filled with dangerous chemicals.

Glad we're in this together,

-- Kristin, Joan, Katie, Donna, Roz, Mary and the whole Team

[1] is a project of the Ecology Center in partnership with the Washington Toxics Coalition and: California • Center for Environmental Health • Connecticut - Coalition for a Safe and Healthy Connecticut • Maine - Environmental Health Strategy Center • Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine • Massachusetts - Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow • Michigan - Michigan Network for Children's Environmental Health • Minnesota - Healthy Legacy • New York - JustGreen Partnership • Oregon - Oregon Environmental Council • Washington - Toxic-Free Legacy Coalition • National - Center for Health, Environment and Justice

P.S. SMS text wiz? Try a more complex search:

Text "healthytoys [high/med/low] [toy name]" to 41411 -- to limit your search results to only those toys with a high, med, or low toxins rating -- e.g. "healthytoys low slinky" will only return the Slinky that got a "low toxins" test rating by

Text "healthytoys [retailer]" to 41411 -- to search for toys sold by a particular retailer -- e.g. "healthytoys low costco" will return the toys sold at Costco that got a "low toxins" test rating by

Text "healthytoys [search term]" to 41411 -- to search for toys with that term in their name, description, brand, or retailer. In other words, you can search not only for a toy name but also for Costco, or Leap Frog, or bracelet, or fuzzy, or rattle, or Spider-man, or Disney -- and any toys with those words anywhere in their listing will be returned.

Too many results? Try typing the name of the toy just as it is printed on the packaging -- e.g. "healthytoys Disney Royal Shoes Set".

Webkinz & Advertising

From Campaign for Commerical Free Childhood:, the most visited virtual world for children in the United States, has quietly begun targeting its users with outside advertising.

The site is already commercial - in order to subscribe, children must buy a Webkinz toy that comes with a special code. But apparently using the site to sell millions of Webkinz stuffed animals wasn't enough for Ganz (the makers of Webkinz) and now they're selling their young users to advertisers. To make matters worse, Ganz didn't bother to inform parents, many of whom purchase Webkinz toys for their children expecting that the website will be free of outside advertising and links. By opening the site to advertisers, Ganz is choosing to maximize profits at the expense of parents' trust and children's wellbeing.

Tell Webkinz: No More Advertisements

The "Parents Area" of does not mention that the site now includes advertising. Webkinz is currently marketing the film Alvin and the Chipmunks. In addition to banner ads, the site is encouraging young users to actively engage with the movie by purchasing specially designed chipmunk costumes and food for their virtual pets. Bee Movie - a film that partnered with McDonald's, General Mills and Brachs, and has dozens of licensed products - was promoted in a similar way.

As children spend more and more time on the web, they are increasingly targeted by Internet marketing. Webkinz' decision to take outside ads is reminiscent of Neopets, another popular online destination for children which went from being ad-free to including product placement on their site for McDonald's and other brands as well as launching their own line of cereal.

CCFC is launching a media campaign (including a story in today's New York Times) to inform parents about advertising on Webkinz and to convince Ganz to end it. But we need your help.

Please take a moment to tell Ganz: Stop Advertising on Webkinz.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Talking with Children about Social Class

I have been thinking a lot about the ways that class shapes our experiences, how to deal with the consumption-drive of the holiday season, and how it all feels to kids. The growing income gap distorts consumption for us all (see Juliet Schor's book The Overspent American.) We want products that we can't afford, and both adults and children experience relative deprivation when compared to the media-normal.

Joan Arrowsmith, Lillian Polite and Elizabeth Saenger, all faculty members at an independent school in NY, have written an practical and provocative article about helping schools and children address class in an overt way.
The article contains references for children's books and tips for creating equitable spaces at school and in homes.

Middle and High School teachers can find resources for teaching kids about the income and wealth gap at Teaching Economics as if People Mattered -- resources are all free and they partner with United for a Fair Economy. "Ten Chairs" is my favorite.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Google Phone #s

I am not a particularly paranoid person, but this e-mail from Partners in Ending Hunger seems worth sharing..

You may know this already, but just in case you do not:

Google has implemented a new feature which enables you to type a telephone number into the search bar and hit enter and you will be given the person's name and address. If you then hit Map, you will get a map to the person's house. It's a nationwide reverse telephone book.

If a child gives out his/her phone number, someone can now look it up to find out where he/she lives. The safety issues are obvious, and alarming.

Note that you can have your phone number removed or blocked.

In order to test whether your phone number is mapped, go to Google, Type your phone number in the search bar (i.e. 555-555-1212) and hit enter.

If you want to BLOCK Google from divulging your private information, simply click on your telephone number and then click on the Removal Form. Removal takes 48-hours. "

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Curious City Peace Picks

Kirsten Cappy, extraordinary book event consultant and book-chooser recently shared a few selections with me...

by Jeanne Willis and illustrated by Tony Ross is a lovely picture book reminding us all of the virtue of silence.

Out of The Egg
by Tina Matthews is a small gem -- the pictures are all black and white and red and the book is short and familiar. However, the end has a twist -- when it is time for the slighted hen to get retribution, her young chick scolds her: "Mama, that's not nice. . ." and peace among the next generation gets started.

by Marc Tauss is another black and white book, but for older children. The book is illustrated with marvelous black and white photography that balances fantasy and the potential for the story to be reality nicely. The plot is straightforward (and perhaps a bit too didactic), featuring a young African American boy who saves the playgrounds of the big city.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Totally Wired - Boston - December 12th

Totally Wired:

How Technology is Changing Kids and Learning

A PUBLIC FORUM on how digital media is changing how
young people learn and play, featuring:

Henry Jenkins, Professor, MIT, and author of Convergence Culture, will talk about his latest work on media literacy and skills young people need for the 21st Century.

Katie Salen, Professor, Parsons the New School for Design, and game designer, will discuss the new public school based on design and games she is opening in New York City.

Howard Gardner, Professor, Harvard University, and author of Five Minds for the Future, will talk about the ethical implications of growing up online.

December 12, 2007
5:30-7:00 pm

Brattle Theatre
40 Brattle Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

Too Far Away To Touch - a Children's Book

I stumbled upon the book Too Far Away To Touch by by accident by Leslea Newman (The cover of the book looks like a girl in a snowstorm - really they are stars).

The book is a gorgeously illustrated story about negotiating illness and the potential death of a loved one. Zoe loves her Uncle Leonard, with his booming laugh and fun adventures. Leonard is gay and has a partner, Nathan, who sometimes accompanies them on their field trips. Leonard is also sick, a fact that emerges slowly in the story. Ultimately, it turns out that he has AIDS and Zoe worries that he is dying. Throughout the story the phrase, "too far away to touch, but close enough to see" is used, to describe stars and people who we lost and miss." Few books prompt conversations about loss and grieving without being heavy-handed and although I found myself a bit teary, this was a lovely way to have the conversation without fear.

Newman is the author of Heather Has Two Mommies as well as many other books -- and lucky for us Mainers, she teaches in the MFA program at Stonecoast Writers.

Catherine Stock is the illustrator and the pictures are beautiful.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Simple Gifts

My daughters' Friends School sang this song after morning meeting today -- it was so lovely and perfect for this season, I was compelled to find out more. A few renditions are on the YouTube sidebar.

Simple Gifts

(A bit of a detailed history and analysis can be found at the American Music Preservation site)

Lyrics and music by Elder Joseph Brackett at the Shaker community in Alfred, Maine, 1848.

Aaron Copeland included it in his Appalachian Spring symphony in 1955.

Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,

'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain'd

To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,

To turn, turn will be out delight

'Till by turning, turning we come round right.

Status of Children in the U.S. (pt 1)

The Foundation for Child Development publishes an annual report of child well being across the United States, as well as a fascinating comparison of the U.S. with the U.K, Australia, Canada and New Zealand (other English-speaking industrialized countries). Two key findings:

1) Wealthy states can hide pockets of significant child poverty by having higher averages that mask inner-city problems. It is important to look at internal statistics, not just state-state comparisons when making policy decisions or distributing resources.

2) Although no other country does better than the U.S. across the board, there are significant weaknesses in our treatment of children, particularly children's health.

The report finds:

* The percent of households without an employed adult is lower in the United States than in all comparison countries. However, poverty rates are higher in the United States than in all comparison countries.

* Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have better outcomes than the United States in the Health domain. Relatively high rates of infant mortality and children who are overweight and obese disadvantage the United States in this domain.

* Teen birth rates in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand are lower than in the United States. This indicator is a key figure in the Safety/Behavioral Concerns domain.

* The United States has a relatively high proportion of young adults who complete high school and obtain baccalaureate degrees. However, the proportion of children who attend preschool is lower in the United States than in all countries except the United Kingdom.

* 15-year old American students scored lower in mathematics and reading than their counterparts in all comparison countries on internationally administered standardized tests, leading to a last place finish in the Educational Attainment domain.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Decision Making Foundation

A great friend and teacher introduced me to this very fabulous organization - the Decision Making Foundation. DEF provides curricular materials to help teach kids skills for good decision making.

They engage these 6 concept areas as the chain of good decision making:


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Living Values Network

Living Values Network is an international organization focused on bringing social justice and a values-based framework to children. They provide training, worldwide, and have several activity books available.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Packaging Boyhood

PACKAGING BOYHOOD (clipped from Dads and Daughters Newsletter)

Our friend Dr. Mark Tappan is co-authoring a book, to be called “Packaging Boyhood” about marketing to our sons. The book aims to “scrutinize the world of boy power, and the ways media and marketers' stereotypes about how to be a man reach way down into the lives and entertainment of younger and younger boys.” Mark is writing it along with Dr. Lyn Mikel Brown and Dr. Sharon Lamb, co-authors of the 2006 book “Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers' Schemes.”

To gather data for “Packaging Boyhood,” these preeminent scholars on the role of gender in the emotional, psychological and cultural development of our children put together a very interesting online survey. Participation by dads and/or their sons will be worthwhile.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

YES Magazine

Yes Magazine is a hopeful magazine that focuses on social justice issues. It stems from or draws from David Korten's work "The Great Turning." Both he and spouse Fran are major contributers -- Fran is Executive Director of the Positives Future Network which publishes Yes!

The web site includes a ton of resources -- most interesting are the discussion guides that could enliven family dinners or tepid class discussions.

The Human Rights Resource Guide : A Users Guide to Taking a Stand includes fabulous links to a variety of organizations. Although a couple of years old, the resource guide for creating sustainable and joyful communities is full of inspiration.

Yes also offers support for teachers - although it isn't always clear what age group the materials target. Teachers can get a 1-year subscription for free and can find modules for teaching about geo-peace-politics or human rights.

Holistic Education / Quaker education

The Head of School at my daughter's wonderful new Friends School (not linked to maintain the slightest bit of privacy) shared an article by Ron Miller about the essence of Quaker Education. [Miller's view is just one, of many complicated ideas - The Friends Council on Education provides a more comprehensive overview.]

The idea that all individuals have a connection to God, and that through silence we develop our inner resources and conscience resonates with me, despite my total lack of religiousity. I LOVE Quaker meeting, which is like a big group meditation but includes some "queries" to guide the group thinking and a clear sense of people (kids, in our case) chewing on things. Unlike a more Eastern meditation, the goal does not seem to be clearing ones' mind but rather letting those deeper thoughts that are so often pushed down against the clutter of daily life come to the surface. Whatever it is, I find it to be both peaceful and inspiring to be in silence with children -- my children -- and I love that silence is appreciated in their schooling lives.

Miller's site has a huge amount of resources -- his articles, articles written by others on the topic of holistic education (a much broader topic than Friends education) and a huge list of links and resources for a child-centered educational revolution.

Teachers Resiting Unhealthy Children's Entertainment

TRUCE has released their latest toy guide, in time for the holiday season.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Go With Peace

Go With Peace is an activity book with exercises for pre-school and elementary aged children. The book provides a framework for creating "peace clubs" or after school programs that build children's peacemaking skills. These activities could easily be used in school or in already-formed clubs, like scouts.

The author (Kelly Guinan) frames the book with a 4-step model : Peace For Me, Peace For Us, Peace For Everyone, and Peace for the Planet. This model works well in two ways. First, children learn skills for emotional literacy and inner peace which will be important if they engage in peacemaking in the world. Second, it helps children develop empathy because they are starting from a very local, personal place.

The book includes some wonderful drawings and somewhat reproducible hand-outs. My favorite is a finger-spiral. Some seem a bit simplistic (peace word-find for example for a book that clearly recognizes that peacemaking cannot be learned through worksheets.

My favorite activity is the "squishy" as a way to create a tactile experience while talking about feelings.

Although not every activity resonated with me -- and I worried that some of the "peace for everyone" activities made assumptions about who would be in or not in the group -- the resource is definitely worth the $20 -- especially as it supports the nonprofit PeaceQuest.

Friday November 9th - Rally for Advocates for a Multiracial Maine

As a response to graphics in the "Waterville Sentinel" on Tuesday,
November 6--a graphic which made it clear that there are
advocates of white supremacy in our area--area citizens are organizing
a rally--"Advocates for a Multiracial Maine"--from 4:00-4:30 on Friday,
NOVEMBER 9, in downtown Waterville, Castonaguay Square (next to the
Opera House). The purpose of the rally is not to focus on the alleged
perpetrator of what is being called by the police a hate crime, but rather
to affirm that we are a community that welcomes diversity and will not
pass over in silence representations that are very frightening to people
of color and white people alike. Please come and join us! For more
information, contact Julie de Sherbinin, 872-5908,

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Peace Crafts for Veteran's Day

Veteran's Day provides a wonderful opportunity to talk with children about the role of violent and non-violent protest. It also is a time to engage intentionally around creating peace. There are many wonderful websites offering simple craft ideas and inspiration for talking with kids about what it means to be peacemakers.

* Peace Dove Coloring Sheets

* Peace Crafts (doves and paper cranes)

* Make your own Peace Pole

* Learn how to say "Peace" in many languages (I love the Karen Katz book for this, too).

Season for NonViolence

"A Season for Nonviolence, January 30 - April 4, is a national 64-day educational, media, and grassroots campaign dedicated to demonstrating that nonviolence is a powerful way to heal, transform, and empower our lives and our communities. Inspired by the 50th and 30th memorial anniversaries of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this international event honors their vision for an empowered, nonviolent world."

SNV offers a wonderful 64-day set of prompts for teachers or families to use to ground our conversations about peace and peacemaking. (They are listed a bit differently here).

I'm not clear about the background group for this project and would love comments if anyone knows!

Young Peacemakers Project Book

The Young Peacemakers Project Book, by Kathleen Fry-Miller and Judith Myers-Walls is a sweet collection of simple crafts and activities to engage children ages 3 - 10.

The authors frame peacemaking in terms of learning empathy and responsibility for others. Section I focuses on caring for the environment, Section II emphasizes understanding people (in all our difference) and the ways that differences are sometimes used as the basis for prejudice and discrimination. Section III provides kids with some concrete activities for problem solving, although this is definitely not a comprehensive conflict resolution program. Rather, the activities are geared toward 1-time activities that could open up more conversation or deeper work.

The book is old (1988) and does not address internet resources at all. However, it is a lovely collection of ideas that seem very age appropriate for younger children.

The book is out-of-print but there are used copies available.

There is a second edition that is still in print.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Project Zero summer institute 2008 already open for registration

Project Zero Classroom 2008
July 28-August 2, 2008

Registration NOW open

Our rapidly changing world presents profound challenges for today's educators. How best to prepare young people for a future that is hard to imagine? How to create learning experiences that are engaging and exciting for children? How to teach for the kind of deep understanding and thought that allows people to solve complex problems and do work that is both excellent and innovative? How to encourage our students to fall in love with learning?

The Project Zero Classroom 2008 is designed to help practicing pre-K through Grade 12 educators design classrooms, instructional materials, and out-of-school learning environments that address these challenges.

For more detailed information about the program or to register online, please visit or website.

Please contact us with any questions at 800-545-1849 or

The Project Zero Classroom 2008 is presented at the Harvard Graduate School of Education by Project Zero and Programs in Professional Education.

Cultivating Peace, Taking Action

Another curriculum for high school (although I think it could be adapted for middle school or college level classes) this set of activities focuses on questions of social justice and possibilities for activism.

This Canadian resource describes the purpose as "a teaching resource to support education in global issues, sustainable development, social justice, and active citizenship."

United States Institute of Peace Essay Contest & teacher resources

High School students may enter the USIP essay contest -- essays are due Feb 1st 2008. The topic is "Natural Resources and Conflict."

USIP also offers teachers some great resources, mainly for high school and college level classes. Of special interest are there prepared simulations, allowing students to engage in active learning about complicated topics.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Harvard Educational Review on Peace

The Harvard Educational Review offered a symposium on peace education in its Fall 2007 issue. The articles were written in response to the Virgina Tech shootings but cover a wide range of topics.

I will share the list of articles here, and blog about them 1 by 1 as I find the time.

~ Calling Institutions of Higher Education to Join the Quest for Social Justice and Peace by Elavie Ndura

~ Peace Education in a Violent Culture by Ian Harris

~ The Psychology of Violence and Peace by Rosemarie Stallworth-Clark

~ Love, Peace, and Wisdom in Education : Transforming Education for Peace

~ Rethinking the Unimaginable : The Need for Teacher Education in Peace Education by Tony Jenkins

~ Educating for Peace with Critical Exploration by William Schorr

~ Creating and Sustaining Peaceable School Communities by Linda Bion-Meisels, Steven Bion-Meisels, and Catherine Hoffman

~ Arts and Peace Education : The Richmond Youth Peace Project by Adria Scharf and Ram Bhagat

Mothers Acting Up Against the War - 10/27

Mothers Acting Up, in Maine, is hosting a halloween party in conjunction with the October 27 National Mobilization to End the War in Iraq. .

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Registration Open for the CCFC Conference!

CCFC's 6th Summit
Consuming Kids:
The Sexualization of Children and Other Commercial Calamities

April 3-5, 2008
Wheelock College
Boston , MA

Registration is now available for CCFC's 6th summit: Consuming Kids: The Sexualization of Children and Other Commercial Calamities on April 3-5, 2008 in Boston!

Featuring an all-star lineup of presenters, CCFC's 2008 Consuming Kids summit promises to be our best ever.

On Thursday, April 3rd, the summit will kick off with the presentation of the 3rd Fred Rogers Integrity Award to Morgan Spurlock, director and star of the acclaimed film, SuperSize Me. Friday and Saturday will feature presentations and workshops on the impact of commercialization on children - and what we can do to stop it.

We expect this year's summit will sell out early so register now and take advantage of early bird rates.

Confirmed speakers include: Michael Brody, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry - Nancy Carlsson-Paige, author, Taking Back Childhood - Gail Dines, co-author, Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality - Julie Gale, Kids Free 2 B Kids - Allen Kanner, co-editor, Psychology and Consumer Culture - Tim Kasser, author, The High Price of Materialism - Joe Kelly, author, Dads and Daughters - Jean Kilbourne, author, Can't Buy My Love - Diane Levin, author, Remote Control Childhood - Susan Linn, author, Consuming Kids - Alex Molnar, author, School Commercialism: From Democratic Ideal to Market Commodity - Alvin F. Poussaint, MD, co-author Come On, People - Michele Simon, the Marin Institute; author, Appetite for Profit - Juliet Schor, author, Born to Buy - Susan Gregory Thomas, author Buy, Buy, Baby - Ana Lucia Villela, Instituto Alana - and many, many more!

Register now

Scholarships available

Can't make the summit? Help someone else attend by supporting CCFC's summit scholarship fund.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

There Ought to Be A Law

"There Ought to Be A Law" will be shown at the MAIN Conference on Friday, Nov. 2nd.
To register for the conference or for more information see the contacts below.

Here's the story:

Cathy Crowley worked two, full-time jobs and devoted all of her free time to her family before her teenage son Larry's death. She had never been involved in politics, or even voted. Overcome with grief by his suicide in 2004, she went to Wal-Mart to talk to the salesperson who sold him the gun. "We were just obeying the law," the manager told her. "If you don't like it, tell your congressman."

So, Cathy did just that. She sat at her kitchen table for 10 hours one July day and wrote to every single elected official in the Maine legislative directory. A state legislator agreed to sponsor a bill on her behalf that would require a 10-day waiting period before young people could buy guns.

The legislation came at a time of growing concern about youth suicide in Maine, which has the highest rate in New England. Maine also has among the highest gun ownership per capita in the country, and most youth suicides are committed with guns.

Cathy devoted every free moment to passage of the bill and enlisted her family's help. At first, it seemed likely to sail through the Legislature. But the National Rifle Association mounted a behind-the-scenes campaign to defeat it.

"There Ought to Be A Law" shows Cathy's transformation from a shy, "average Mom" to a savvy activist who buttonholes lawmakers and negotiates with committee chairmen as she takes on one of the most powerful and feared lobbying groups in the country.

Two years in the making, "There Ought to Be A Law" gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at how the Maine Legislature operates, and how average people can get involved in the process. The film will be distributed to schools and organizations encouraging civic activism.

The film was co-produced by Anita Clearfield and Geoffrey Leighton of Durham and Shoshana Hoose of Portland. The Center for Independent Documentary in Sharon, Mass. sponsored the project. Funders include the Point Harbor Fund of the Maine Community Foundation and the Eleanor Humes Haney Fund.

CALL: Chris at 626-7058 ext 204 or toll-free 1-866-626-7059 ext 204


Intergenerational Feminist Conference

The National Conference for Women and Girls
Freedom on Our Terms: From Houston 1977 - NY 2007
Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the First National Women's Conference in Houston, Texas 1977
November 10th and 11th, 2007
Hunter College, 68th Street and Lexington Avenue, New York City

The Bella Abzug Leadership Institute is taking the lead, together with Girls Speak Out, in organizing the first major national intergenerational conference for women and girls to be held November 10th and 11th at Hunter College in New York City.

The conference will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first National Women’s Conference held in Houston in 1977 and catapult the women's rights agenda forward into the 21st Century. Participants will examine the 26 planks that resulted in the original National Platform for Action established in Houston, which dealt with all aspects of women’s lives, boldly strategize to update the platform to the present, and identify and target goals for the future. At this national conference for girls and women of all ages, we hope to inspire and energize all women, and younger women in particular, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disabilities, religious, economic, social and cultural differences, to launch an all-out effort to achieve full equal rights for women and girls starting right at the conference! It is the conference's aim to have participants devise and spearhead action agendas implementing these efforts over the next five years.

For more information on the conference or to register, please look for the "Freedom on Our Terms Registration Form", e-mail BALI at, call BALI at 212-650-3071 or visit Girls Speak Out.

Please note: We are trying to plan an pre-conference, opening night concert on Friday November 9th with several well known singers, girl/women bands and performers. Details of this concert event will be made available later on this site.

Roots and Shoots Halloween Tips

We (FSP) are members of Roots and Shoots, although we have not formally created a group, it is something for us to keep considering. Either way, some of the info, like this, is pretty inspiring:


The Somerville Roots and Shoots group invites everyone to join in the
second year of our Halloween project, "Every Ape Counts". We will be
dressing up as endangered primates and trick-or-treating for donations
to help them! It worked really well last year and now we hope to step it
up to a much larger scale. Pick a primate that is in danger from habitat
destruction, the bush meat trade, etc. -and this includes almost all of
them - and get going!

You will need:

A handout on the primate and the danger it is in, along with a little
speech you can give.

Printouts on the organization and project that the funds will be given to.

A Costume! Share tips on costume design, on bringing out your inner ape,
and nominate worthy projects benefiting particular primates by posting
on the Every Ape Counts topic on the Campaigns forum on the R&S bulletin
. You may need a quick, free registration to get on the bulletin board.

Also feel free to contact our group directly, with email to

See you out there!

Dan Hull
Celebrate Green Halloween!

Suggestions for a greener Halloween:

Instead of buying a costume, design your own, creating a costume from fabric, ribbon and other odds and ends that you find around your house.

Purchase your pumpkins (organic, if possible) from local farms or farmer's markets.

Instead of carving pumpkins, paint or decorate them. After Halloween, use the innards to make pumpkin soup. Leave the seeds in your birdfeeder as a special treat for blue jays and nuthatches.

Instead of buying luminaria, recycle some old tins cans. Create patterns of holes in the cans by using hammer and nails. Buy some petroleum free candles at your local green grocer and voila, spooky lighting!

Giving away organic candy is a great idea. But, if you choose to give away conventional Halloween treats, learn about the palm oil crisis. Find out which big name brand candies contain sustainably produced palm oil so that you can make informed choices.

Check out these websites for more creative suggestions:

Green Living

Green Halloween

Stop Global Warming

And, if you go out trick-or-treating, don't forget to bring your reusable canvas bag

Be safe and have fun,
Christine Ellersick

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Boys and Media Images

The Children's Museum of Maine is offering a free lecture:

Media, Masculinity and the Boy Crisis

Thursday, November 1 from 7:00-8:30pm
Using a variety of examples from contemporary music, film, and television, Mark Tappan leads this workshop exploring the messages boys receive from the media about what it means to be a "real boy." The workshop provides insights into the relationship between "mediated messages" and boys' experiences in society and discusses strategies for encouraging boys to become critical consumers of contemporary media. A Colby College professor, Tappan received graduate degrees from the Ohio State University and Harvard University. The lecture is free but space is limited. To make a reservation, email: or call:
828-1234, x 228.

Gender Equity in Maine Sports

This from Dads and Daughters:


New Hampshire is the friendliest state for female high school athletes, while Alabama is the least, according to new data from the Women’s Sports Foundation. The report shows less than a 3 percent gap between girls’ enrollment and athletic participation at high schools in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Maine, Vermont and Minnesota. At the other end of the spectrum, the gap was over 15 percent in Alabama, Louisiana, the District of Columbia and Tennessee. Earlier WSF participation showed that, at an average higher education institution, the female share of undergraduates is 55.8% while the female share of athletes is 41.7%.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

MCLU education events

The Maine Civil Liberties Union has two case studies promoting conversations about civil liberties for teachers to use (they don't specify grade level). They also will send teachers to speak in classrooms, and provide additional materials.

MCLU is also offering a number of public events including :

FORUM: Adoption for Same-Sex Couples in Maine
Thursday, October 25
6:30-8:30 pm
Law Offices of Bernstein Shur, Portland
For more info or to RSVP: 774-5444

Movie Night
@ the North Star Cafe in Portland

And Human Rights Watch Film Festival
Special screening sponsored by the MCLU:
11/17, 7 pm
11/18, 3 pm
SPACE Gallery, Portland

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Emotional Literacy and Happy Kids

The Greater Good Science Center, out of Berkeley, offers tools for raising happier kids. (A video presentation of their ideas is in the right-hand sidebar). It is a new site, so there isn't a ton of information, but it has promise.

Greater Good is also a magazine, and this edition features essays about the 21st century family. Although there is nothing directly written about peacemaking, there are progressive and provocative articles.

Friday, October 19, 2007


My almost-8 year old is a bit late to the world-of-webkinz and she's not even so sure about it, since she doesn't really know what it is, but it makes sense that she is curious and wants one since they are so coveted on the playground. As a parent prone to ranting and raving, I have probably added a bit of "forbidden fruit factor" to the mix. She knows I think they are dumb, and might be able to recite a few of my reasons but mostly she knows that mom won't buy them and that probably means they are fun. She's got resources in friends and extended family, so it is likely that she'll be a proud webkinz owner soon.

It is hard to know where to draw the line -- clearly webkinz are not dangerous and not worth a big fight. On the other hand, they are part of a larger force that entices kids online and into consumer culture without a lot of critical awareness. This article, from Commerical Free Childhood, explains my objections well. Yet I find the "what to do" ideas a little simplistic. It feels hard to engage my child in a conversation about the ethics of consumerism when she's still on the edge of early childhood and magical thinking. This is, of course, what makes them such a great product for marketers and so difficult for families -- when kids can sort-of believe that the pet lives or dies by the owner's web activity, the moral imperative to get online increases. When pretend play takes on all the reality of virtual technology the quality of that play changes. How can a young child navigate the border between pretend and real when that border is so blurred by new technology?

I'd love to hear the real-life strategies that other parents use.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Newsletter from the Campaign for a Commerical Free Childhood

There are some gems in this month's newsletter from CCFC. You can take action, read the newest report on schools and commericalism or get tips for parenting in a consumer culture.

Halloween Tips

Halloween is a tricky holiday for peace loving parents. On the one hand, it is a joyous occasion that fosters creativity and dramatic expression and role playing -- and brings home some much needed chocolate during these shortening days. On the other hand, the increasing number of violent superhero costumes and the pitiful range of roles being marketed to children is of concern.

Hardy Girls, Healthy Women offers a number of tips for helping girls break out of the "must-be-a-pink-princess" trap.

offers a way to help kids engage in service projects while trick-or-treating.

And, getting a bit punchy, if you're longing for peace and quiet, check out this costume idea!

Sleep for Peace???

New York Magazine published an interesting article arguing that sleep-deprivation causes a myriad of problems for young people -- and adults, I assume. The most interesting bit, for me, was the idea that we process "bad" feelings and memories first, and sometimes wake up before we get to the good ones. This explains the over-tired blues and could probably account for a ton of Postpartum depression. But, it is hard to figure out how to get more sleep in these crazy times... less tv, fewer activities, less homework, later school start times -- these are some of the ideas.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Stirring Up Justice : Writing to Change the World

This book, by Jessica Singer, deserves special mention. It is a fairly small book, that describes in lovely detail a high school English teacher's experience teaching kids about activism. Singer helps students choose books that teach them both about justice/injustice and about activism while also always encouraging them to write about their own experiences with the same. She includes her wonderful hand-outs and exact assignments as a resource, as well as clips of student work. Student also illustrated their stories and shared them with younger children. She also includes an inspiring chapter on protest songs, sharing a bibliography of traditional songs but also including the songs that her students identified as meaningful. Finally, students created service projects as a culminating activity - all the while reading and writing to support their learning.

Singer, Jessica. 2006. Stirring Up Justice : Writing to Change The World. Portsmouth: Heinmann.

Sourcebooks for Diversity and Peace Activities

I recently had the pleasure of planning a mini-social justice workshop for middle school students. I used a lot of the online resources from Teaching Tolerance, but also drew from some books. I did not love any of them, which was a bit disappointing but found gems in each.

Cooperative Learning, Cooperative Lives : A Sourcebook fo Learning Activities for Building a Peaceful World, by Nancy Schniedewind and Ellen Davidson was written in 1987 and it does feel somewhat dated. I also found it hard to know what the right age-group was for the various activities. However, there are tons of ideas in this 538 page book and it is useful as a conceptual prompt. It also draws on multiple intelligences, with a variety of art, music and group projects. The underlying themes clearly focus on progressive politics and social justice issues.

Open Minds to Equality
, by the same authors, offers much of the same material in an updated fashion and with a more direct and clear emphasis on issues of equality. The latest edition of this book was published in 2006. The chapters begin with activities to help students build basic group process skills, and then introduce complex ideas about prejudice, discrimination, multiculturalism and social change. Again, I found some of the activities geared toward younger children and some toward older children -- an index would have helped with this. Some of the activities also felt quite contrived - I wondered if middle schoolers would have given themselves over to the role playing without having this format as part of their schooling from the outset. That is, I think this kind of curriculum would make a much bigger difference as an ongoing project rather than a special unit. The resource section in the back is lovely.

Starbright : Meditations for Children by Maureen Garth was a different kind of book. Because so many authors argue that children need to develop the capacity for peace before being asked to take on the challenges of conflict resolution, many strategies for teaching peacemaking begin with yoga. Garth offers guided meditation for children as a means of helping them relax and develop their inner resources. She suggests using them at rest or bedtime as a way of helping kids build imagination and relaxation skills. I couldn't quite get my own children to stick with it but my older daughter does LOVE the sleepy CDs by Jim Weiss that do a similar thing.

Of all the research I did, my favorite book by far was What If All the Kids Are White? Anti-Bias Multicultural Education with Young Children and Families by anti-bias education guru Louise Derman-Sparks and Patricia Ramsey. Although it was more theoretical and academic, the authors put the ideas in a complex context while also offering really age-appropriate and practical suggestions for helping white children a way to think about race, identity, difference and justice while also holding children of color close and maintaining inclusive and loving childcare.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

ADL resources

The Anti-Defemation League provides another wonderful online biblography for children's books that deal with themes of diversity and social justice. They also provide the World of Difference Institute which provides on site or online anti-bias training for educators at every level. And, they have e-mail newsletters addressing a variety of topics... so much great information.

Monday, October 1, 2007

"That's Not Fair"

Kids have an innate sense of injustice, especially if they sense that they are less than a sibling. Authors and teachers Ann Pelo and Fran Davidson argue that this moral compass can be a fabulous basis for social activism among preschoolers. In their book That's Not Fair they make a case for including activism as part of the pre-school curriculum.

The book uses case studies and reflective writing to describe how and why to engage in activism with young children. It is not a curriculum but does walk teachers through both the process and some of the challenges of engaging very young children with social change work.

The authors contend that kids need 5 traits as activists :

-- accepting differences
-- Collaborating with others
-- paying attention to other people's feelings, ideas, and needs
-- speaking out about fairness and unfairness
-- taking responsibility for problem solving

One of the strongest chapters addresses strategies for building these traits among parents and in helping adults see the utility of taking children's ability to name injustices seriously.

I did not find the book to be a great resource for digging in, but enjoyed the contemplative tone.

The book is 1/2 price from the publisher (see above link) right now.

Lyrics and MP3s from the book are at SisterChoice

Friday, September 28, 2007

Portland Press Herald Opposes Paid Sick Leave

In a slightly bizarre editorial, the Portland Press Herald opposed Paid Sick Leave because the bill is not strong enough and might scare new business away and businesses mostly do the right thing anyway. The flawed logic -- if business is going to do the right thing, why will this bill scare them? -- scares me! It would make more sense to me if they either said "we should not mandate these things" or "we don't need it" but instead they assert that workers do need increased protection but we should not support this initiative because it is not comprehensive enough. Now, I'd love to see broader coverage, but why not support a start?

Read the editorial and possibly add a comment here.

This is a great time to write a letter to the editor -

Letters to the editor should be exclusive to this paper, contain 250 words or less and include the writer's name, address and home and work phone numbers. Readers will be contacted before their letters are published. Readers not contacted within 10 days can assume their letters will not be published. To submit letters: Mail to Letters to the Editor, Portland Press Herald, P.O. Box 1460, Portland, ME 04104-5009
Fax to (207) 828-8154

Send by e-mail @ this web site

Childhood Poverty a problem in the United States

The rate of child poverty in the United States is shameful. If we don't pay attention to the ever widening gap between the ultra-wealthy and the poor we put an entire generation at risk. Two organizations provide fabulous information to help educate ourselves, our community and our children.

The Center for Child Poverty at Columbia University provides tons of data and public policy information. They provide a 50-states database to retrieve demographic information for your own particular state.

United for a Fair Economy is an activist organization that also provides easy to understand economic data. I especially appreciate access to workshops and training materials - it makes it so easy to present information to a variety of audiences. (I held a wage gap play date a few years ago -- kids played and parents looked at the posters and talked about fair pay).

Teaching Economics as if People Mattered
provides similar exercises and lessons geared toward high school students.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Another great source for reviews of Children's Books

The University of Wisconsin hosts the Children's Book Cooperative. Among the many booklists are:

40 books about peace and social justice

50 multicultural books every kid should know

And tons more.. .

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

From the Portland Press Herald - Resources for teaching about Native American History

From the Portland Press Herald

MAINE VOICES: Native American teaching resources exist on Web
Maine teachers struggling to integrate this material into their classes don't have to reinvent the wheel.

Lynn Lowell Mayer September 26, 2007


Lynn Lowell Mayer of Enfield is a library media specialist at the Old

Town Elementary School Library.

— It's too bad that a Maine teacher spent time recreating the
wheel for her "Indian-themed project" last year (as reported in
the Maine Sunday Telegram on Aug. 26).

The article implied that no good resources exist to assist
teachers in implementing the law regarding Maine Indian

Mainers, and especially educators, should know that as a result
of L.D. 291, there are historically accurate and culturally
appropriate resources that are readily available.

First, I wonder if anyone has asked their librarians for help?
Public and school librarians around the state have had several
opportunities at recent annual library conferences to learn about
Maine's tribes, how to select appropriate materials and where
they can be acquired.

Here are a few other reputable sources.

The Penobscot Nation received a grant in 2004 from the
Administration for Native Americans to develop the "We Teach"
K-12 curriculum that is teacher-friendly, appropriate, Maine-
Learning-Results-compliant and easy to integrate into lesson
plans (not add-on units).

Workshops were held around the state in 2005, and the lessons
are available by clicking on "search lesson plans" at the L.D. 291
Web site

An entire kit with extensive K-12 lessons and resources from
the "We Teach" project can be purchased from the Penobscot
Indian Nation Cultural and Historical Preservation office.

Another round of teacher workshops from a second grant
awarded to the Penobscot Nation is being scheduled for
October. Two of the workshops will be in the Portland area.

Also, the University of Maine recently held its fourth annual
"Wabanaki Institute" for educators. Participants (usually a wide
range of educators, not just social studies teachers) are
immersed in the culture, meet people from area tribal nations
and are provided with an abundance of resources and

The Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance holds several annual
events throughout the state where people can make contacts
and learn about the traditional basket-making process.

Educators can also meet Wabanaki people, watch
demonstrations, and listen to drumming at the annual Common
Ground Fair in Unity.

Maine teacher Betsy Sky-McIlvain has been integrating L.D. 291
into curriculums for several years, and shares her ideas, lessons
and resources
for middle-school and high-school teachers on
the Web.

Teachers could contact Tilbury Publishers to schedule a musical,
cultural or literary visit from Alan Sockabasin, author of a
wonderful Passamaquoddy tale, "Thanks to the Animals," that is
much more than a children's book.

One of the most important issues in teaching about any native
peoples is stereotypes. These have been perpetuated through
children's literature (among other places), so I would encourage
educators to take a look at the whats and whys of appropriate
Native literature on the Web

L.D. 291 is long overdue, and is, unfortunately, another example
of legislation without financial support. Although educators and
librarians tend to be resourceful, they need not recreate the
wheel for Wabanaki studies.

From a non-Native perspective, trying to learn "all about it" can
seem overwhelming. I hope my suggestions will help every
educator in Maine to make a beginning.

We need to ensure that our next generation of educators will
have the knowledge they need to appropriately integrate Maine
Native studies instead of doing token Indian projects.

– Special to the Press Herald

Saturday, September 22, 2007

American Indians in Children's Literature

This blog is an amazing resource to learn more about Native American history and to find home and classroom resources.

Wage Gap and Family Policy - Breakfast of Champions in October!

Laura Fortman, Commissioner of Labor and former director of the Maine Women's Lobby/Maine Women's Policy Center does a brilliant job explaining the complexities of the wage gap on this episode of Maine Watch.

The prospects for working women are bleak, and the wage gap remains stuck at $0.77 to men's $1.00. This means that thousands of Maine children live in poverty and maine families struggle because maine women are not earning a living wage.

The Maine Women's Policy Center is hosting a series of breakfasts to discuss this essential issue, as well as other public policy ideas that could help Maine families.

Register now for the Breakfast of Champions!

Thursday, October 4, from 7:30-9:00 a.m.
Holiday Inn By the Bay, Portland

Wednesday, October 10, from 7:30-9:00 a.m.
Spectacular Event Center, Bangor

Thursday, October 11, from 7:30-9:00 a.m.
Northern Maine Community College, Presque Isle

This year's Breakfast of Champions series will make the case for why family friendly public policies should be a political priority. Joining us in Portland and Bangor will be Judith Stadtman Tucker, editor of Mothers Movement Online and advocate for sound policies that benefit mothers and families.

Tickets are $35 in advance, $40 at the door, and student tickets are $15. We are committed to representing women of all economic means; please contact us for discounted tickets. For tickets or sponsorship information, contact Bonnie at or
207-622-0851, ext. 22.

Real Teens, Real Talk in Portland Maine

Real Life, Real Talk is a Planned Parenthood project that helps adults learn strategies to create dialouge with the young people in our lives. There are tons of resources on the web site and many live workshops around the state. Here is the most recent Portland Calendar:

October 2 - "Sex Ed for Parents," 6:30-8:00 pm, The Family Center at
Youth Alternatives, 50 Lydia Lane, S. Portland.

October 10 - "Sex Ed for Parents - Part 2: Internet Safety for Kids,"
6:30-8:00 pm, Charles A. Dana Center Auditorium, Maine Medical Center,
22 Bramhall Street, Portland.

October 17 - "When Turtles Make Love," Add Verb Productions' newest
play, followed by a World Cafe discussion, 6:30-9:00 pm, Deering High
School, 370 Stevens Avenue, Portland.

October 22 - "When Turtles Make Love," as above, 6:30-9:00 pm, Portland
High School, 284 Cumberland Avenue, Portland.

To register for any/some/all of these events, follow this link:

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Love Your Body October 17th (and always)

Loving ourselves is clearly the first step toward creating love in the world, but sometimes it is the hardest. Consumer pressures emphasize all that we should do differently with our bodies -- if we're never good enough, maybe we'll buy more stuff. There are several local and national groups working to counter this message:

NOW sponsors Love Your Body Day on October 17th -- they offer many resources for community organizing.

Girlformation offers body image camps:

Two Body Image Camps!

Two Body Image camps will be running this fall. The first camp will take place on Saturday September 29th & Sunday September 30th in Waldoboro, Maine. The second Body Image Camp will run on Saturday, December 8th and Sunday December 9th in the Fryeburg area. The camps run from 10 AM-3PM on both days, and transportation is not provided.

Each day the group of 6-10 girls, ranging in age from 12-14, will meet with facilitators, Kathleen Hastings, RN, social worker Christina Francis, LCSW, and Carrie Charpentier, certified elementary teacher, to discuss themes pertaining to positive and negative images that society and culture have created in respect to women's bodies.

The Body Image Camp is free to participants and there are a limited number of available spaces filled on a first come, first serve basis. Both days a catered lunch will be available to participants. After attending both seminar days, participants will receive a $100 gift card to Target and families will receive a $50 gas card to reimburse travel expenses. If you would like to participate in one of the two Body Image Camps, please contact us., and indicate if you are interested in the September camp or the December camp.

Girls Health Conference from Girlformation

Girls' Health Conference
Saturday, November 17, 2007
8:45 AM - 3:15 PM
Village by the Sea Conference Center,
Wells ME
GirlFormation is hosting a Girls' Health Conference appropriate for girls ages 9-12. Doctors and other health professionals will be speaking on health issues that girls face today in the areas of puberty, dermatology, nutrition, exercise and mental health. A brief question and answer session will follow each speaker. Girls are asked to attend the conference with a female in their lives, such as mother, aunt, grandmother. Pre-registration is encouraged, and you can now register by visiting our website,, or calling Carrie @ 207-251-1947. First forty participants will be entered in a raffle to win prize (raffle done on day of event).

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Youth Activism Contest

Something about this doesn't feel quite perfect to me - perhaps the competitive part, or the tv part - but it still has promise :

New Contest Highlights Positive Youth Activism

An innovative new Web broadcaster is using the power of the Internet to inspire children and youth in schools across North America to make a difference. Quantum Shift TV is challenging students from grades one to twelve across the United States and Canada to participate in the "Be the Change! Share the Story!" School Video Contest. Students are invited to work on a social or environmental project of their choice, and document their progress in two short videos to be uploaded on the web. In addition to making a difference in their community, students have an opportunity to win up to $50,000 in prizes for their school.

Projects can range from volunteering at a homeless shelter to educating the community about human rights, measuring a school's carbon footprint to building a hospital in a developing country-anything that addresses an environmental or social concern in a positive, solution-oriented way. Student teams will execute their project and document their progress in a series of two short videos. The first video, introducing the team's project, must be uploaded to by December 15, 2007. The second, reporting on the project's execution and results, is due by March 31, 2008.

In May, the 25 top-ranked videos in each age category will be reviewed by a panel of celebrity judges who will select the 3 finalists in each age group and invite the public to choose the winners. Judges include bestselling author and environmentalist Paul Hawken, actress Pleasant Wayne, skateboarder Bob Burnquist, executive-with-a-cause John Wood, Bioneers founder Kenny Ausubel and Nigerian women's rights activist Hafsat Abiola. Winners will be chosen based on community involvement, project execution, video quality, and overall social and environmental impact.

To provide project ideas and resources for both students and teachers, Quantum Shift TV has partnered with key organizations like UNICEF, Free the Children, Room to Read, TransFair, NAAEE, TakingITGlobal, The Pembina Institute, New Global Citizens, Sierra Youth Coalition, Rainforest Action Network, Care and Oxfam.

Students and educators can find out more and sign up for the contest at

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility

Called Teachable Moment, this web site offers a large number of activities to explore current events / US politics as well as great ideas for social and emotional learning. The site is easily divided between age groups.

Teaching about Native American History

Acadia National Park Service offers a very detailed kit for teaching about Passamaquoddy History and Culture -- dates for a training are TBA but much of the kit is available online

From the
Spring 2007 - Date TBD
Passamaquoddy History and Culture: A Teaching Kit for Grades 5-8
Experience the National Park Service’s new learning tool for Maine teachers: Passamaquoddy History and Culture: A Teaching Kit for Grades 5-8! Participate in kit activities and be introduced to the hands-on teaching tools in the kit; learn how to build a Passamaquoddy kit for the classroom or borrow one of four kits available for loan; and garner a greater understanding of Saint Croix Island International Historic Site—Maine’s second National Park Unit—and the important relationship that developed between the French and Passamaquoddy in 1604.
Teachers will receive:
1. six contact hours for workshop participation;
2. handouts related to Passamaquoddy history and culture;
3. a CD of the kit’s Teacher’s Guide;
4. handouts that link the kit’s activities to specific Maine Learning Results; and more!
Check back later for details or contact Meg Scheid at 207-454-3871.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Kids and Health Care

It is a basic fact that kids can't begin to do their best learning if they are struggling to meet basic needs.

Eric Steele has a compelling op-ed in the Bangor Daily News encouraging the expansion of health care to all children -- shouldn't it be a no-brainer?

To take local action on this issue, check in with the Maine Children's Alliance, the Maine Equal Justice Project, or Consumers for Affordable Health Care

Momsrising is working on the same issue, on a national level -- here is there plea:

THE LOWDOWN: For just a moment, imagine that any child, anywhere in America, could see the doctor when they got sick. No more horror stories about uninsured kids getting sicker and sicker because their parents can't afford the cost of health care. No more parents going bankrupt because of a costly childhood illness. Just a whole nation full of healthier kids getting the care they need.

Now compare that vision to reality: A million more children in our nation are uninsured now than just two years ago. Now 1 in 8 children are without any health care coverage at all. Our nation is on the brink of missing an important opportunity to help these uninsured children. Congress must pass the proposed expanded reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by the end of this month. Sad to say, the President is already threatening to veto the bill--despite the fact that there is broad support from Governors of both parties.

We're up against the clock. We need to send a strong message now that we cannot play politics with the health of our nation's children--and that an expanded SCHIP program should be reauthorized before the deadline! We have an opportunity to send a strong message this coming Tuesday when petition signatures from several different organizations will be delivered together in Washington, D.C. to show broad support for children's health care coverage.

SIGN THE PETITION FOR HEALTHIER KIDS IN AMERICA: Sign our petition now to support better health care coverage for children through expansion of the popular, bi-partisan State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Send a message to Congress and the President that all children deserve health care coverage.

*Sign the petition now.

We need to get as many petition signatures as possible by this coming Tuesday so we can have a big impact when they are delivered on Capitol Hill--so please pass this around to friends to get them to sign on by Monday night as well. Thank you!

THE SCOOP ON SCHIP: This federal health care program (one of our favorites!) helps families afford health coverage for uninsured children (and this help is critically important because right now 1 in 8 children are without health care coverage at all!). Here's how it works--the federal government gives funds to the 50 states, who then use that money plus some of their own dollars to offer affordable health care coverage to working families, usually through private insurance companies. Families that don't meet the low-income standards for Medicaid coverage, but still don't make enough to purchase private insurance, can apply for their children to be covered by these SCHIP-funded plans.

What makes this program so powerful is that it allows states to decide what level of assistance makes sense for their populations--taking into account the state economy, local cost of living, and the total number of uninsured children in their state.

MAKE KIDS' HEALTH CARE A PRIORITY: As a part of a nation-wide, bi-partisan multi-organizational effort, we've been working hard to re-authorize and expand SCHIP this year. Let's tell Congress again, in as many ways as we can (maybe we should hire a blimp!), that we need health care coverage for all kids. Now.

*Don't forget to sign the petition