A Sense of Home: A community based solution to empower youths who have aged out of the foster system.

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Our year long social studies unit of study has been Families & Homes. As we finish the school year, we have been reflecting on the many things we have learned. Through our Maslow study, our little ones are well aware of how their family structures positively impact them. They have shared that families support you, encourage you, keep you safe, and most importantly love you. We asked our students, “What about the children who don’t have such families? Who keeps them safe? Who takes care of them? Who encourages them to be the best versions of themselves?” They were at a loss because this harsh reality is something they have not experienced.

My lovely K/1 colleague had the brilliant idea of teaming up with the non profit organization, A Sense of Home (ASOH) to provide our little ones with a meaningful service learning project. ASOH gets donated furniture and home supplies, and helps out of age foster youth create their first real home. After many class discussions we posed the questions:

  1. How can we advocate for those who don’t have a voice? 
  2. How can we improve the belonging system for youth who have aged out of the foster system?

 

Our little ones made lists of the basic household items they use on a daily basis. Eventually they became two lists: bathroom and kitchen items. Then we decided that the first graders would bring gift baskets with bathroom items and the kinders would bring kitchen items – because as a little one said, “K is for kitchen and for kindergarten!” Students were instructed that their parents were not to pay for these items. They had to earn them by doing various chores at home. Many of them groaned at the thought, but as time went by, their sense of pride and community spirit deepened. To earn money they had lemonade stands, sold their art work and washed windows. My favorite was a little one who held dance performances for their parents after dinner

 

We also got lots of great feedback from parents:

I took my son to pick out the items for his basket this afternoon. In the back of the car holding his jar of money he said to himself, “This is when it all pays off.” He was so excited. And he feels such ownership of the project. We went over budget vs. what he had in the jar, and he has been working off the balance all afternoon because he wants to “pay for it all”. It’s an awesome project.

It was so lovely for me to witness my daughter really getting into working on assembling this Sense of Home basket for a kid in need. I could see that she truly empathized with these kids and her heart went out to them. In addition to the other things, she was particularly concerned that if the foster kid aging out is female, then she would need sanitary napkins. And she’d need deodorant if she wanted to try to get a job to earn income. And she’d need encouragement and something to brighten her days because she wouldn’t have parents to encourage her. She and her brother made a framed picture and included some silk hydrangeas in a vase for encouragement…

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On Friday, our K/1 students brought their baskets and walked them to the bus. They were full of pride as they saw all of the things that they were able to donate as a result of their hard work, compassion and want to support their community. All of the K/1 classes participated in this service learning project. Some classes made candles, others made books and sold them at school to raise funds. With the funds collected they went to IKEA as a class to purchase household items (brave teachers). It was truly inspiring to see our school community collaborate together to support such an amazing organization that empowers our youth to hold tight to their hopes and dreams.

It takes a village to raise a child. – African Proverb

 

If you would like to donate and support A Sense of Home, please visit:

http://asenseofhome.org/donate/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ASenseofHomeMovement/

 

Wrapping Up Maslow Study in our K/1 Class

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Over a month ago, I wrote that our K/1 students were beginning to learn about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and how this relates to our year long unit of study, Families & Homes. After much delving, sharing, drawing, reading and writing, our littles ones have an impressive understanding of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. While I wish you could spend an afternoon with my class, discussing their learnings, I’m hoping you see via some of their documentation, how their appreciation for their families has deepened.

Basic Needs (food, water, air)

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My mom always gives me healthy foods.

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I go outside and get air.

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My dad packs my lunch.

Safety Needs (shelter, job)

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I have a safe home.

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If people don’t have a job, then you can’t have money, and you can’t pay for insurance to be healthy.

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Health insurance lets you go to the eye doctor, so you can see and you can learn.

Love & Belonging Needs (family, friendships)

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Me and my mom snuggling.

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I belong to my family and my soccer team.

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I belong in my school.

Self Esteem Needs (confidence, encouragement)

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      I am great at handstands.

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Self Actualization – Doing what you love!

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I learned to count.

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I learned to play basketball.

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I learned how to read music.

 

Many of the kids had huge realizations that many, if not most of the things they had already accomplished were a direct result of their supportive families and community.

 

One of the goals of education should be to teach that life is precious.

— Abraham Maslow

 

K/1 Students Learn About Maslow to Better Understand Systems in Their Homes

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

In our K/1 class, we are introducing a basic understanding of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to expand our Social Studies unit of study, Families & Homes. Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist (1908-1970) who believed that in order for a person to be self actualized, or reach one’s full potential, certain physiological and emotional needs have to be in place. Maslow identified these needs as:

  1. Basic Needs: food, air, water, sleep
  2. Safety Needs: shelter, safety, stability
  3. Love & Belonging Needs: family, friendship, acceptance, community
  4. Esteem Needs: feeling respected, capable, worthy,
  5. Self-Actualization: harmony, set goals, successful, achieving full potential

 

While we have just begun our conversations, our little ones are already thinking hard and sharing their wonderings.When asked, “Imagine not knowing where you are going to sleep tonight, what you are going to eat for dinner, or who will keep you safe?”  

Our K/1 students were quiet as they contemplated these scenarios. Some asked, “But what about their parents? Where are they?

I replied, “Maybe they are working three jobs to make ends meet. Therefore, they can’t be home to tuck you in bed or read you a story. Some families struggle every day to get their basic needs met. How would you view the world if this was your experience every day. Would you think the world was a fun place full of adventures or do you think you would be scared and unsure?”

They quickly said they would be scared if their mommy’s and daddy’s weren’t home to take care of them. Others said, “I didn’t know some kids have it so hard. I guess we’re lucky to be in our homes, really lucky.” A little girl thoughtfully said, “I know I am because my family gives me encouragement, especially at school because sometimes learning is hard for me.” 

We have written a class big book to help begin our learning on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In the next coming weeks our K/1 students will fill our class hierarchy of needs with writings, drawings, and personal examples as to how their families support their needs both at home and school.

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We will delve into each need and how our families and homes provide us tools to support our physical and emotional development to become the best versions of ourselves.  I’m also curious to see if they will offer solutions to advocate and support kids who need more support in their homes.

A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. – Abraham Maslow

 

The Story I’ll Tell: Book Review for Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017

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In celebration of Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017, we reviewed The Story I’ll Tell, by Nancy Tupper Ling, illustrated by Jessica Lanan, and published by Lee & Low Books (the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the country). This lyrical and gorgeous picture book subtly touches upon adoption, the wonderful ways families come together, and the love shared between parent and child. I was excited to read this book to my k/1 class since it tied in nicely with our Social Studies theme, Families & Homes.

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We read, The Story I’ll Tell, several times and had many heartfelt conversations. A few even picked up on the adoption slant of the story and shared personal stories. While the rest of the class didn’t understand this concept, we did come to an understanding that families come together through close friendships, religious institution, neighborhoods, school communities and work relations. Also, that families come together in many special ways and the most important thing is love.
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We asked families to share with their children how they came to their home. We said that their “coming home” stories could be factual, magical, or a hybrid of both. Most of the little ones found inspiration from this story, saying that they came to their home on a hot air balloon, or on an ocean wave. But some shared very specific and factual events to tell how they came to their home. As they narrated their stories I laughed, cried and felt much joy to be privy to them. Then they chose a sentence from their “coming home” story that best described their journey home. Their complete stories were pasted on the back of the heart mobiles.

Priceless…

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One day at work my parents met. Later, up in Big Sur, at Pfeiffer Beach, they made a wish for me. I came on a whale and found them. They took me home and I became part of their family. We are a fun family with a lot of laugher.

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I was on a rainbow star and I slid down the rainbow. The same star came back and took me to my parents. They screamed because they were so excited. And then, another star slid down and brought my twin brother, Grant. I brought rainbows and rainbow stars to my family.

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They were at my grandma’s, my dad’s mom. My mom wanted to wash laundry but grandma’s washing machine was broken. So she went to their old house and washed the laundry there instead. She was washing the clothes, and sitting on the couch with her cat, Whiskers. My mom felt contractions, so she had to gather all the clothes, but they were wet. She put them into the car. And then she went back to my grandma’s house and told my dad and they went to the hospital. And then, when it was time, I came out like a football! My dad thought the doctor would miss, but he was wrong because the doctor did catch me. My parents were so happy.

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One magical night I was in an invisible hot air balloon. It drifted over the sparkly ocean. The wise wind blew the hot air balloon to my family. When my mom saw me, she smiled and held me to her heart. My brothers were excited! My dad was sleeping so he didn’t see me ‘til the next morning. When my dad saw me he smiled and hugged me.

 

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Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is in its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that.

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include ScholasticBarefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. RomanAudrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTVCapstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle SwiftWisdom Tales PressLee& Low BooksThe Pack-n-Go GirlsLive Oak MediaAuthor Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

 Author Sponsor include: Karen Leggett AbourayaVeronica AppletonSusan Bernardo, Kathleen BurkinshawMaria DismondyD.G. DriverGeoff Griffin Savannah HendricksStephen HodgesCarmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid ImaniGwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana LlanosNatasha Moulton-LevyTeddy O’MalleyStacy McAnulty,  Cerece MurphyMiranda PaulAnnette PimentelGreg RansomSandra Richards, Elsa TakaokaGraciela Tiscareño-Sato,  Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also work tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

 

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teachers-classroom-kindness-kit/

Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents: http://bit.ly/1sZ5s8i

 

The Belonging System: A glimpse into the places where children feel they belong.

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In Social Studies, we are continuing our learning on Families & Homes. We have spent the beginning of the school year exploring the various ways families come to be. Some family members are born into their families and other are made with love and appreciation. We have concluded that families are formed through friendships, school communities, religious places like churches or synagogues, work, school and travels.

We are beginning our investigations on where families live and the types of places that can be considered home. We will discuss the types of homes people live in, in our communities and around the world. To start this conversation, we read the gorgeous picture book, You Belong Here, written by M.H. Clark and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. This book takes the reader on a lyrical journey of where plants, animals and children belong.

And the trees belong in the wild wood and the deer belong in their shade,

and the birds belong so safe and good and warm in the nests that they’ve made.

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After we read this book, we brainstormed the various places where we belong. We explained that belonging can be attached to a physical place like one’s home or favorite park. We can also belong to ideas, or places that make our hearts sing, nourish our souls, and ground us. I shared that I belong to words and writing, picture books, and my yoga corner. Using a systems map we asked, “Where do you belong?”  Our littles shared many interesting and heartfelt places of belonging.

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As a follow up activity, our little ones wrote a book where they chose five places using the sentence starter: I belong in / I belong with__________________.

Here are some of the wonderful places where we belong. It was also noted that no matter where we come from, there is always a place where we belong.

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If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.

– Mother Theresa

 

Writing “Small Moments” in a K/1 Class

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As we continue to explore and discuss our year long social studies theme, Families & Homes, many conversations around Holiday traditions are coming up. In writing, we have been focusing on “small moments”, writing with focus, detail and dialogue. Since I attended the Teacher’s College Writing Institute in the summer, I’ve been keen on implementing the new writing tools I learned.

This is the abbreviated version of the “small moment” piece I modeled.

It was raining cats and dogs and I could barely see the road.

I gripped the steering wheel and I felt my heart pounding all

the way to my fingertips.  I said to my sister, “Poka, I’m

really nervous driving in this rain. What should we do?” 

Finally it stopped raining cats and dogs. It was sprinkling now

and I could see the road ahead. I felt relieved. I even started

to get excited about the many adventures we were

going to have in San Francisco!

The kids laughed when I wrote “cats and dogs”. I told them it was a figure of speech and I plan on having a mini lesson on that sometime in the future. I explained that when writing a “small moment” we focus on just one event and expand on it. I told my students that I could write about all the things that I did in San Francisco: the car trip, Golden Gate Park, my aunt’s house, Mitchell’s Ice Cream, the different restaurants, visiting with my cousins…

However, I was only writing about the moment when it rained hard as I drove to San Francisco. The kids asked, “How long was that?”  I said, “It rained for twenty minutes but it felt like an eternity for me because I was so nervous.”

Most of my students wrote about a small moment during the Thanksgiving break. As I sip my coffee on this Saturday morning while reading their writing pieces I am all smiles. Each and every student is making progress.

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This kinder friend told me how he was jumping so high on the trampoline his hair was escaping him. “My mom kept telling me to stop jumping on the trampoline because she was scared I was going to fall but I didn’t.”

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This first grader asked how to spell Thanksgiving. “Use your brave spelling. Say the word slowly and write the sounds you hear.”  FAXGIVEN – fantastic!

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This kinder friend surprised me! “I went to my grandma’s hotel.”

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This first grader added many details in her small moment writing piece. On her way back from New York, they had to wait in the airplane for two hours. Prior to writing I asked my students to tell me about their pictures. She shared that it was really boring but she kept herself busy by reading and drawing. She asked me, “What do you call the person who fixes airplanes?” I suggested, “Airplane mechanic and aircraft technician.” It was great to see that when she wrote she used  “airplane mkanik” – brave spelling at its best! She also incorporated “I felt relieved” from the writing piece I modeled.

Our little writers have become very comfortable and confident as they write. I wish I could video them to show how focused they are during writer’s workshop. After all these years teaching, observing their writing progress always feels like magic!

 

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. ― Roald Dahl