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.