Thursday, August 30, 2007

Peaceful Piggy Meditation

We are traveling this week and have been enjoying bookstore stops along our way. We picked up "Peaceful Piggy Meditation" -- a book that was introduced to us in Grace's first grade classroom last year and seemed useful for helping us all handle the challenges of travel. Unfortunately, the book does not hold Kate's attention as much as her other choice : A Fine, Fine School but both deliver great messages.

Peaceful Piggy Meditation,
by Kerry Lee MacLean, is written both for children and their caregivers and provides ideas about how and why we should create intentional space for relaxation and reflection. The web site offers an online meditation to follow.

A Fine, Fine School
, by Sharon Creech, portrays an overzealous principal who wishes to keep children and teachers in school 24/7 until a wise child talks him down (the illustrations are especially humorous). This book reminds me of Take Time to Relax, by Nancy Carlson, which similarly reminds us of the joys in unstructured time.

There are copies of both books on sale at BookCloseOuts right now - for some reason Take Time to Relax is not on Carlson's web pages, but most of her books feature an element of SEL and they're all very fun. We've especially liked "I LIKE ME" which encourages us all to say nice things about ourselves, "Harriet and the Garden" which encourages problem solving and dealing with mistakes, "It's Going to Be Perfect" about the gap between a new mother's ideas about early childhood/parenting and the realities, and "A Visit to Grandma's" about how a grandmother can break-out of traditional roles.

Roots and Shoots Peace Fair

R & S
Peace Day Celebration
Bridgewater State College, MA Saturday September 22,
2:00-4:00 p.m.

(From Roots and Shoots New England)

The New England Youth Leadership Council is kicking off the New England Roots & Shoots Peace Through the Arts campaign with our 1st Annual Peace Day Celebration, to be held in the lovely ballroom of the Rondileau Campus Center of Bridgewater State College. We need help with the arts & crafts activity tables and registration table.

The youth leaders wish to raise $3,500 to support Roots & Shoots programs for Congolese youth living in the Lugufu Refugee camp in western Tanzania. The program has been successful in helping create sustainable living conditions, reducing the impact of refugees on the local environment and creating linkages among refugees and local Tanzanians.

Admission to the Peace Day Celebration is free, but your voluntary donation of $5 will be sent to Lugufu and will make you eligible for a drawing for lots of great prizes! Enjoy music, speakers, artwork submitted by 14 Roots & Shoots groups, art awards ceremony, drawing for prizes, project activities…and more! Stay tuned for details…

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Mickey Mouse Monopoly

Mickey Mouse Monopoly is a powerful documentary that raises questions about Disney's control of the "public imagination" in children's stories. The film is available at the Portland Public Library and is provocative - would start great conversations and encourage thoughtfulness around using the Disney-empire products in school settings. (A discussion guide is available at the MEF site as well) -- clips from You Tube are on the right -- more can be found there.

Children's Books update

Maine's Born to Read project is releasing the Peaceable Stories curriculum ! Get more info from their blog.

I forgot to include the booklist from Open Circle (a SEL program for schools, particularly in the MA area). The booklist includes very brief descriptions of books that address a range of social and emotional topics. They also offer a bibliography for educators, but most of the books were written in the 1990s.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Sexism, Sexualization of Childhood and Feminism as part of Peacemaking -- Pt 1

August 26th is Women's Equality Day.

We have much to celebrate, but much to be concerned about, too. For example, the American Psychological Association released a series of papers, last year, documenting the mental health problems associated with the recent hyper-sexualization of very young girls. It is disturbing to know that popular culture is harming our girls (and boys) and hard to know the best ways to respond.

There is so much great information on this topic -- and a lot that is pretty bad. I've been sitting on this post for a while, because I know I can't fit it all in. Finally, I've decided to just get started and keep adding as a I can...

Maine Resources:
A Company Of Girls : A theater group and community/resiliency-building program for girls in the Portland area. They produce a women & girls film festival and several theatrical productions each year.

Girl Formation : A newsletter about girls psycho-social development and issues / resources specific to Maine

Girls, Inc. -- a national organization, with a new site in Maine. The organization helps girls build resiliency to become "Strong, Smart and Bold"

Hardy Girls, Healthy Women -- a Maine organization, with a great lending library, and fabulous programming for girls

Mainley Girls

Bookclub suggestions for middle and high school girls

Maine Women's Lobby and Maine Women's Policy Center -- Advances the rights of women in Maine -- MWPC sponsors Girls Day at the Statehouse which brings 100 middle school girls to Augusta each spring.

York County Gender Project:
Resources for Turn Beauty Inside Out, Women's Leadership,
Development, media literacy, and basic information about gender socialization

The Maine Women's Fund provides grants to many more programs for girls throughout the state.

National Resources :

Amelia Bloomer Project -- feminist children's books (organized by age level)

Dads and Daughters -- Research and tips for helping dads and daughters connect and for increasing the SEL of daughters through their relationships with dads.

National Women's History Project - -curricular resources and a bookstore

See Jane - studies of representations of girls and boys in children's movies (the organization and web site are currently under construction)

For Kids :

New Moon
- -a girl-edited magazine (no ads) for pre-teens

Zoeys Room -- an internet space for middle-school girls with a feminist tone

Resources for Media Literacy

The Center for Media Literacy distributes a free curriculum for parents and teachers (it is accessible in a comprehensive pdf or by searching for particular themes/activities). They organize their activities around 5 key questions / 5 core concepts :

#1 Authorship All media messages are "constructed." Who created this message?

#2 Format Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules. What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

#3 Audience Different people experience the same media message differently. How might different people understand this message differently from me?

#4 Content Media have embedded values and points of view. What lifestyles, values and points of view are represented in; or omitted from, this message?

#5 Purpose Most media are organized to gain profit and/or power. Why is this message being sent?

The Media Education Foundation has films that can be used in a professional development or middle/high school setting and a great list of Media Literacy links to help us make advertising visible to kids and ourselves.

Hardy Girls, Healthy Women -- an organization co-founded by Lyn Mikel Brown (co-author of Packaging Girlhood) has another great list of links

Parents Guide from Children's Advertising Review Unit

The Kaiser Family Foundation provides some of the best research on media in our lives.

Finally, a huge list of links is offered by Arizona State University's Commericalism in Education Research Unit (interesting research here, as well)

For Kids :

PBS Kids has a "Don't Buy It" page for kids, with resources for teachers and parents. I have mixed feelings about the increasing corporatization of PBS -- advertising occurs between shows but, more problematic for me, is the placement of PBS characters on cereal boxes, toothbrushes, etc. This is viral marketing at its best and seems hypocritical. Nevertheless, the site has some good ideas and resources.

I have not found any good books, for kids, on this topic -- if anyone has suggestions, please comment!

Consumerism in the Age of Anxiety

It is back to school time and the catalogs are rolling in. School shopping is a modern tradition and can provide a ritual for preparing kids for the change in seasons. However, the overwhelming emphasis on buying stuff -- and often very particular stuff -- is a byproduct of marketing hype in the age of anxiety.

Marketers prey on our worry, hoping to convince us that if we buy more products we will be able to protect ourselves and our children from harm. Furthermore, the advertising industry preys on class anxiety, hoping to convince us that our children's chances for success depend on early exposure to "educational" videos and classes and the right clothes, etc.

Susan Linn's expose, Consuming Kids shines a brilliant light on the advertising industries techniques to convince parents that they need certain products to convince kids to beg, borrow or steal (from their parents). She is affiliated with the Campaign for a Commerical Free Childhood -an amazing resource for both information and action.

Juliet Schor's similar book Born to Buy provides a sociological analysis of the forces that shape consumer culture among children -- including an outrageous practice of predatory advertising by gifting "cool kids" with new shoes, jeans, or gadgets in order to make the item sought after in a school or neighborhood. Schor works with the Center for the New American Dream to encourage voluntary simplicity and the questioning of consumerism among all of us. The site includes a youth program : buy different and many resources for teachers and parents on Kids and Commercialism including a book : Smart Consumers: An Educator's Guide to Exploring Consumer Issues and the Environment,

Packaging Girlhood, by Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown, exposes the ways that marketers exploit and reproduce sexist ideals by developing toys and clothes that emphasize hyper femininity and masculinity at very early ages. Shopping games and preschool make up are intended to socialize girls to believe that ideal femininity requires a million products and that they are all worth every penny because only a few can win the prize/get the guy/be the princess. . . Lamb and Brown argue that the intensive marketing of femininity to very young girls narrows the options for girls to be accepted - they can either be "one of the guys" or "for the guys" and this message is repeated in tv, movies, books, toys, games, etc. The authors emphasize the importance of introducing more options to girls and of teaching them to be critical consumers of these messages.

(The next post will provide some resources for dealing with these issues!)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

"How We Are Smart" ~ a children's book about multiple intelligences

Nikola-Lisa, W and Sean Qualls. 2006. How We Are Smart. New York : Lee and Low Books.

This book uses poetry and artwork introduces talented Americans and emphasizes 8 different ways that people can be smart (body, logic, music, nature, people, picture, self, word). Drawing on Howard Gardner's ideas of multiple intelligences, the book provides insight into the different ways that "famous" people express their talents and invites kids to think about themselves and each other in a multifaceted way.


LEE & LOW BOOKS : Teacher resources for teaching about diversity. (PDF classroom guides, by theme, that are connected to books published by Lee & Low).

Multiple Intelligences and Child Development
(the basics)

Project Zero at Harvard -- research and publications focused on integrating ideas of MI into the classroom. Project Zero offers professional development opportunities, an annual conference and an e-bookstore.

Strong Start
: A SEL curriculum

John Gottman developed the idea of "emotional intelligence" and has a wonderful book on the topic : "The Heart of Parenting" as well as other resources for families.

Boys to Men

Boys to Men is a unique SEL / violence prevention organization that focuses on helping boys find healthy ways to express masculinity in a culture that emphasizes a deep connection between manhood and the use of violence.

They offer an e-mail newsletter, an annual conference and a monthly Cable Access show. The last scheduled program : "What being a man means in other cultures" will be aired Tuesday, August 28th on Channel 4 (in Maine) from 7 - 8 p.m.

If you get a chance to see it, let us know what you think!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Maine Resources

People in Maine have amazing talents and there are incredible resources around us for creating peaceful communities and resolving conflicts respectfully. Some friends have sent links and I know of others. These focus on schools / youth programs and is by no means exhaustive. I hope people will use the comments to add to the list -- I'll update it into a big permanent list after a bit...

** Staying Safe: Violence Prevention Skills for People with Disabilities A Train the Trainer Course on October 11th @ USM

** The Tree School : A Preschool / Parent&Child learning enviornment that emphasizes learning about world cultures in a peaceful setting. Teachers engage multiple intelligences in the curriculum.

** The Telling Room : A Portland based writing project for young people -- last year the Telling Room hosted a story project that encouraged young immigrant and refuge teens to share their stories about coming to America.

** A Company of Girls : an afterschool theater program for girls, with an emphasis on creating community, self-expression and developing resiliency / challenging sexism.

** Seeds of Peace : An internationally recognized camp / youth leadership program that helps build empathy and increase knowledge among youth living through geopolitical conflicts.

** Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence : an organization that works locally and nationally to prevent bias crimes among youth by increasing empathy and conflict resolution skills

** Friends School of Portland : A new Quaker School in Maine with an emphasis on peace

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Back to School / Opt-Out of Militarization

Recently, my 6 year old nephew explained to me that "video games don't make me want to kill people, they make me want to join the army." And, I suppose, that is just what they are intended to do. According to research by Cynthia Enloe and others, children's toys, books and even school curriculum is increasingly militarized, preparing and encouraging youth to enter military service.

The Army is failing to meet recruitment goals and is aggressively targeting teens. A small-print provision of the No Child Left Behind Act requires schools to provide the U.S. military with names, telephone numbers and addresses of all students (who don't "opt-out".)

The American Friends Service Committee provides information and forms for parents to "opt-out" of this information-sharing.

There is youth oriented information here and at the National Network Opposing Militarization of Youth.

Portland high schools now distribute "opt-out" cards with other school information - According to the MCLU, this dropped the number of names shared from 98% to 40% between 2005 and 2006.

Interesting reading :

Peace Chronicles includes many essays about the militarization of American childhood

Militarization of Youth
: Links to articles and essays

Waging Peace at Home

Summer is taking its toll on sibling relations in my house. Squabbles break out over the smallest things -- the purple crayon, the last apple, whether or not my 3 year old is really a kangaroo. Sometimes I interpret this arguing as character flaws in my children and sometimes I see them simply being true to their egocentric selves -- not yet fully able to see the utility in practicing peace or in making compromises. Sometimes I see that they are truly arguing over my attention or power/control over their lives. Whatever the reasons, conflict between siblings - and between fabulous adults, too -- is part of life. Much of my reading encourages me to think about conflict as a rich source of learning and growth when handled well. Conflicts do not have to lead to disconnection, winning and losing, or to hurt feelings if people are skilled in dealing with them.

The second section of Waging Peace includes a chapter for families and information about the Resolving Conflict Creatively Curriculum.

RCC emphasizes the development of sophisticated communication skills as the center of non-violent conflict resolution. They also focus on teaching students how to name, express and cope with feelings They encourage a “win-win” negotiation process and the use of mediation. They also have a significant emphasis on anti-bias / addressing diversity and the challenges of “isms.”

Tom Roderick’s pointers on resolving conflicts nonviolently (86-88) :

  • Slow down the action
  • Listen well
  • Give the other person the benefit of the doubt
  • Acknowledge the other person’s feelings
  • Be strong without being mean
  • Try to see a conflict as a problem to be solved rather than a contest to be won
  • Set your sights on a win-win solution
  • If you don’t seem to be getting anywhere in solving a conflict, ask for help
  • Remember that conflict, handed well, can lead to personal growth and better relationships
  • The true heroes of today’s world are not the Rambos.

Waging Peace

Lanteieri, Linda and Janet Patti. 1996. Waging Peace in Our Schools. Boston : Beacon Press.

Although written for an urban audience and focused on High School, this book is full of clear and practical ideas for teaching conflict resolution to young people and the adults in their lives. They ground their program in the Social/Emotional Intelligence literature. For example, they begin by teaching young children to name their feelings through a tool called “feeling boxes” (kids put a tongue depressor with their name on it in a feeling box when they enter in the morning, have an opportunity to share their feelings with words at morning meeting, and can move the depressor around as their feelings change throughout the day (36 – 37). They also break down problem solving skills for young children, drawing on William Kreidler’s (of Educators for Social Responsibility) work (42-43) :

1) tell what the problem is
2) find as many different solutions as possible
3) decide which solutions are good
4) choose one solution and act

The book’s greatest strength are the number of practical suggestions and activities that are included – yet it is not an activity book, because the ideas are presented as strategic examples grounded in educational theory and philosophical commitments.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Children's Books

We are a reading family and Kate (age 3) is now in the habit of having books with her breakfast. We read a lot of different kinds of books, but I am always grateful when a book supports our values and/or opens up interesting conversations. The Maine Humanities Council's Born to Read Program offers an amazing bibliography of children's books and well developed curriculum for using children's literature to learn about social justice and diversity issues and to learn about / practice peace (the peaceable stories web site isn't developed yet but you can find some information under trainings). There are other bibliographies available (see links below).

Some of our current favorites are:

* Stellaluna, about a fruit bat and some birds who learn that they can recognize and live their differences and still be friends;

* Karen Katz's new books Can You Say Peace? and The Colors of Us ~ both simple picture books with colorful pictures.

* The Art Book for Children -- a very cool book, suggested by a friend, that prompts us to talk about art and images and feelings.

Soul of Education

This summer I read Rachel Kessler's book The Soul of Education. She currently directs the Passageways Institute

She argues that there are many gateways into soulful education -- she discusses deep connection, silence and solitude, meaning and purpose, joy, creativity, transcendence and initiation as part and parcel of meaningful learning. Providing children with the opportunity to be with each other and adults in an authentic way is essential for their development into adults. Yet, our culture discourages this kind of connection, and much of our time together is spent on the surface. Although the work is focused on teens, it raises questions about how to create genuine opportunities for kids to deal with the hard "meaning of life" questions that are on their minds. She also argues that kids/communities need ceremonies and traditions that mark rites of passage -- this is largely missing in my life and I'm curious about how others bring rituals into your lives in a way that stays simple, genuine and meaningful.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Calming Down

Summer has brought a flurry of activity to our family. Although it is all fun, we are out of our routines and overtired squabbles are erupting. I am realizing that we need a "peace area" in our house where we can go to calm ourselves. I don't want a punishing spot or a "time out" but instead a place where my kids and I can go when we need a breather. Many Montessori classrooms have "peace tables" with soothing objects and comfy pillows. I'm wondering what might make sense in our home.