Friday, February 27, 2009

A Powerful Noise -- Thursday March 5th

The Brunswick Cinema 10 in Maine, and 450 theaters across the United States are having a 1 night event -- a live screening and post-movie event -- in honor of the new film A Powerful Noise. The film looks like incredibly inspiring as we think about the global women's movement and mother's responsibilities to ourselves, to each other, and to children everywhere. There are resources on the web site for planning future events as well...


Hanh is an HIV-positive widow in Vietnam. Nada, a survivor of the Bosnian war. And Jacqueline works the slums of Bamako, Mali. Three very different lives. Three vastly different worlds. But they share something in common: Power. These women are each overcoming gender barriers to rise up and claim a voice in their societies. Through their empowerment and ability to empower others, Hanh, Nada and Jacqueline are sparking remarkable changes. Fighting AIDS. Rebuilding communities. Educating girls.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hi-Tech / No-Tech

Good teaching is more a giving of right questions than a giving of right answers. --Josef Albers

Through some magical childcare intervention, I managed to stay for Gretchen Feiss's talk yesterday on the importance of technology in children's science education.

She opened with a review of the No Child Left Inside movement. Inspired in large part by Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Woods, the movement is working to make sure that outdoor time is part of our national curriculum and that parents, teachers and other caregivers recognize the importance of nature in children's lives.
Gretchen argued for the biophilia hypothesis -- that we all hold a relationship to nature as part of our core identities and need time in nature to feel whole.

She also argued that time in nature leads kids to natural inquiry. She supports inquiry based learning and reported that the Maine Learning Results also supports teaching kids scientific process and skills building over pure content.
I followed Gretchen easily to the end of this part of the talk. My kids attend the Friends School of Portland, and similar values in education have been stressed there. The importance of outdoor time, of following children's curiosity and inquiry, of place based education... these are starting to almost seem like givens in contemporary progressive education.

Gretchen went on, however, to bridge this stance with support for some screen time. She argued that many of us want to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, when we see nature and technology as a zero-sum game. She argued that well chosen technology can increase children's interest in nature and better help them answer the questions they raise. She pointed to the GPS starfinder as an example -- when a child wonders what star she's looking at, she can be a) distracted by a tired and unknowing parent, b) told to figure it out with a book, which can be really hard, or c) can use the gps starfinder to immediately learn all kinds of things about astronomy. Similarly, she argued that the simulations found on most Maine school-granted laptops are good for kids science education.

I was influenced by the work of Jane Healy, who made a sensible argument (in my view) that most computer use is low-skill, and that the early introduction of computers is at best a waste of time and at worst a replacement for the learning activities children need for healthy development. But even she, a fairly outspoken critic of computers for children, says that around age 7 computers can be useful in kids lives. (read a segment of her book here). As a parent of a 9 year old, I like the idea of creating a relationship between her questions that rise from her lived experience and the vast amount of interesting information that we can access with technology. Figuring out what counts as high quality web site, software, gadgets, etc. however is almost a full-time job, and I worry that we will be constantly bombarded with more stuff in our attempt to do this well.

A question in the audience spoke to this issue, a bit - we have such profound income inequality in our country, that we have a gigantic digital divide and nature divide. How do we keep these questions from simply being the province of the upper middle class?

Also, how do we know "how much is too much" in terms of time in front of the computer, even if it is in pursuit of high quality info?

Should kids learn about how computers work and how programming works? What media and computer literacy should accompany the use of computers?

Clearly, technology use will continue to be a part of our children's lives, but there is a lot for parents and educators to consider as we integrate hi-tech and no-tech into our days.

More links are on the sidebar...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The importance of recess

I wish adults had recess too!

NYT, February 24, 2009
The 3 R’s? A Fourth Is Crucial, Too: Recess

Monday, February 23, 2009

LGBTQ rights in Maine / on marriage

Maine's LGBTQ community is organizing to establish marriage as a right for all people, including gay and lesbian couples. This campaign is going to cost money -- you can donate to Equality Maine here. But it also is going to take a lot of conversations. Talking with young children about exclusion and civil rights is really important -- and something they can pretty easily get a grasp on. Talking about why some families might choose marriage, and some might not, is more complicated, but still important. We don't want to conflate the right to marry with over emphasizing the importance of marriage, since many LGBTQ and straight families happily (or unhappily) exist without married parents. And, we don't all want our children thinking that getting married is the end-all and be-all, despite media/government campaigns to the contrary.

We haven't read any great picture books about creative family formations recently - has anyone else?


For help talking with teens about homophobia and its effects, check out the
Free Ugly Ducklings Screening in Portland

Join us for a free screening of the documentary film 'Ugly Ducklings,' readings from the play, and a panel discussion with members of the creative team. The event is Friday, February 27th, 2009, 7pm, at the St. Lawrence Arts and Community Center at 76 Congress Street in Portland, Maine. The film is appropriate for ages 12+.

'Ugly Ducklings,' the film, highlights homophobia, bullying, and harassment: the real experiences that lead young people to mask their sexual identities, feelings, and questions. By weaving together scenes from the rehearsal process, the play, and from interviews with the fourteen female actors as well as local experts on gender, Hardy Girls Healthy Women and Greater Waterville C4CY have created an important program that can be replicated throughout the country to change cultural attitudes.

Our goal for Ugly Ducklings is to educate and inspire people to take action against bias-based bullying and harassment, so that we can protect our children from the harassment and violence that can lead to self-harm and suicide. Find out more about the Ugly Ducklings Campaign.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Writing Motherhood

The challenge of negotiating motherhood and an academic profession is a sensitive topic for me, but I did like the breadth of topics covered in Mama Ph.D. and this recent interview with the editors.

The editors are now issuing a CFP about writing, motherhood, and writing about motherhood...

Real Life Real Talk Events

Planned Parenthood's Real Life Real Talk program are offering a number of fascinating sounding community events this spring, including:

Self Defense – Self Awareness for Women and Girls
With Clara Porter, MSW
Thursdays, March 5 and 12
6:00-8:00 pm
East Tower Learning Resource Center, Maine Medical Center
22 Bramhall St., Portland

Is This Love: Adolescents and Dating Violence
Join Real Life. Real Talk. and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England for a Professional Training
Our keynote speaker is Vicki Crompton, author of Saving Beauty from the Beast: How to Protect Your Daughter from an Unhealthy Relationship
Thursday, March 19
3:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Earn 3 CEUs
$ 40.00 registration fee
For more information please visit this page.

Free Parent Night
With Vicki Crompton, author of Saving Beauty from the Beast
Thursday, March 19
7:00-9:00 pm
Portland High School Auditorium

Sexuality and Health, Women & Girls—A Training for Health Professionals
With Gina Ogden, PhD
Friday, April 3
9:00 am – 2:00 pm
$60 per person, discounts available for groups of 3 or more

The Heart and Soul of Sex
With Gina Ogden, PhD
Friday, April 3
7:00-8:00 pm
Charles A. Dana Center Auditorium
Maine Medical Center
22 Bramhall St., Portland

Real Life…Girl Talk: A Conversation
With Gina Ogden, PhD
Saturday, April 4
10:00 am – 3:00 pm
True North Health Center
Women: $25; Girls: $15 (scholarships available)

Friday, February 13, 2009

An Interesting Looking Event @ Merriconeag

Planting the Seeds of Kindness: Creative Ways to Work with Aggression in Children

A public talk by Kim John Payne (
Wednesday, March 4, 7:00 PM
Community Hall

Merriconeag Waldorf School, 57 Desert Road, Freeport

An Interesting Looking Event @ Bates


Department of Education

4:00 P.M.

Sponsored by: The Department of Education

Monday, February 9, 2009

Save USM childcare

The University of Southern Maine has decided to shut down its childcare as a cost savings measure. This action is devastating for parents who depend on the local high quality childcare to allow them to pursue education. It is also a terrible message for the greater community about our collective priorities.

Personally, I believe that Governor Baldacci has to decide that he can support targeted taxes to raise revenue -- we can not continue to use the "more for less" cliche, particularly when it comes to caregiving and children!

Sign the Save USM's Childcare Petition or write a letter to the editor today!

That said, the University says there is virtually no way they'll reconsider, so perhaps our activism needs to be broader -- high quality, affordable childcare for all!

Why we need babysitters -- and state support

Stephanie Coontz, whose work I admire, has an op-ed in the NYT about why parents need to get babysitters more. As has been reported previously, Coontz stresses that our (my) generation parents in a more intensive way than previous generations, has less personal time, and less couple time. But she leaves it in such a pat way -- get a babysitter, more self-care. Juxtaposed against the USA today story reporting actual unemployment (that is, including underemployment and people timed out of collecting Unemployment Insurance)at almost 14%, which is certainly still going to be an underreported #, it is hard to understand how Coontz could leave the issue in the realm of the personal. What economic support do families need to make it possible to "get out more"? What happens when the stress of poverty intersects with the culture of intensive parenting? What do we do about the loss of quality childcare in our communities?

Coontz offers a good pre-valentines's day piece for reflecting on how to stay married during the hard years of no-sleep and someone-always-touching-you, but we need bigger visioning for how to keep families intact and ok when the issues are so much more political.

Anti-Sexist Programming in Maine

What is it to offer an anti-sexist enviornment? Barrie Thorne, in her groundbreaking book, Gender Play, on how kids police gender expression with each other, suggests that when teachers and adults refrain from using sex as a major organizing system or for imputing a lot of meaning to gender, kids also deflect attention -- it becomes a less important trait for organizing behavior, play, etc. On the other hand, psychologists like Lyn Mikel Brown, argue that the cultural context that girls and boys grow up in shapes their development and lived experience in particularly gendered ways. Are there strategies for downplaying gender and being conscious about gender and sexism all at once?

Two Maine organizations specialize in thinking about anti-sexism in gender specific ways. Hardy Girls, Healthy Women will be offering a workshop for adults who work with girls to build programs that build on girls strengths, and help girls see themselves as strong and capable problem solvers (rather than the endless labeling of "mean girls" to pre-adolescent and teen girls). The Maine Women's Lobby is also offering a leadership development program for 8th grade girls -- Girls Day at the Statehouse -- as a pipeline project, hoping that girls will begin to imagine themselves as potential public officials.
Boys To Men offers similar programming for boys and adults who work with boys, and is currently seeking feedback to help them plan the 2009 conference.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Enviornmental Health Action

"Every Maine consumer deserves a home that is free of toxic chemicals, and Maine's business owners should also have the right to know that the products being sold on their shelves are safe"

The Environmental Health Strategy Center (EHSC) has been keeping warm these days by staying active! Together with partners from the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine, we've been reaching out to local businesses to get support for initiatives aimed at creating less pollution in people.

If you know of - or own- a local business that wants to sign on to a statement that says we shouldn't have to choose between good health and good business, contact Meredith Small at or call (207) 871-8035

Legislative Priorities for 2009:

Along with ensuring implementation of the Kids' Safe Product Act (LD2048), EHSC joins its partners in supporting the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine's legislative priorities:

Address safety and disposal issues of mercury containing lightbulbs
Protect neighbors and small farmers with a notification system for pesticide spraying
Phase out lead wheel weights to protect drinking water and wildlife
Improve Maine's e-waste law to recycle more and save money
Ensure that Maine Firefighters get the care they need when they contract cancer from workplace chemical exposures
On Tuesday, February 10th, we'll be at the Statehouse in Augusta speaking with legislators about these legislative priorities - for a briefing and to take part - Join us on Tuesday morning!

For more information on the ACHM Legislative priorities, and to join us at the Statehouse on February 10th, contact Kristine Jenkins at or call (207) 878-0082/ (207) 409-9193 (cell)

May your home and your body be pollution free!

-Kristine Jenkins

Environmental Health Strategy Center, 878-0082/409-9193 (cell)

Additional Information and Resources:

We have some great new information sheets and articles. Please contact me at to get electronic or hard copies of:

Information sheets on ACHM legislative priorities - 2009
Study: "Pollution Comes Home and Gets Personal" about women's household chemical exposures, Journal of Health and Social Behavior,Volume 49, #4 visit
"Girl Disrupted: Hormone Disrupters and Women's Reproductive Health" (and other great materials from the Collaborative on Health and the Environment)