Spreading Love, Kindness & Magic In Our School Community

In our K/1 class we asked ourselves, “How can we spread love, kindness, and magic to make the world a better place?” Our little ones sculpted and painted clay birds. Each bird has a special word or message on the bottom of it.

Today, our class placed the birds in our school community. We asked our school friends that if they find one, to take a minute to read the special word or message. Then, they are to gently put it in another place that is easy to see. Our intention is that these birds continue to surprise and delight. Also, that they serve as a means of spreading love, kindness and magic to make the world a more peaceful place.




Stone Soup: K/1 Kids Come Together to Foster Community

This week our caring and curious “Pod” students (K/1) came together to create a delicious and hearty soup. Inspired by the classic story, Stone Soup, our little ones, across five different classrooms, brought vegetables to share for our community soup. Stone Soup is a folktale about three monks who come across a village where everyone has lost the meaning of giving. This retold story and illustrations are by Jon J. Muth. The story tells how a simple thing as stone soup can change the way you view the world.

In preparation for this community gathering, students read the story and discussed the importance of this classic tale. Some classrooms even went on a field trip to Underwood Family Farm and got to pick the vegetables they were going to include in our Stone Soup! We also discussed how gratitude and sharing has a positive domino effect not only in our hearts and minds, but in our community in general.

underwood farms.jpg

The morning of, teachers got huge pots, crock pots and prepped ingredients for the soup. The cubed vegetables were mixed together with vegetable broth and simmered throughout the day. Students also decorated a placemat that was later given to another student in another pod classroom as a gift. At last, our little ones gathered together on the benches with their cup of Stone Soup and new placemat. The direction was they had to sit with a student from another pod who they didn’t know, and that they needed to ask questions to get to know each other.

It was a very special gathering for our pod community. When we came back to our classroom students shared:

I didn’t want to taste the soup but I did and it wasn’t bad.

I made a new friend. We both like the Dodgers.

My placemat is so cool! I can’t wait to take it home.

Our school is like a family.


Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.    -Melody Beattie 

Hopes & Dreams: Beginning of school activities.


I attended a Responsive Classroom workshop, (a way of teaching that emphasizes social, emotional, and academic growth in a strong and safe school community) this past summer. I was excited about incorporating Hopes and Dreams, as well as other RC systems in my classroom this school year.

For the past three weeks, we have been working on learning school routines, class systems, and activities to foster kindness and mindfulness. We read books to help us discuss the sort of classroom we would like to be in and the ones we would not want to be in. I shared with the little ones that my intention for the school year was “joyous and harmonious”. Students came up with agreements that would support such an environment, and we eventually chose these five:

  • Be kind and gentle
  • Use inside voices
  • Participate
  • Walking Feet
  • S.L.A.N.T (sit up tall like a mountain, listen attentively, nothing in your hands and track the talker)

We then signed the classroom agreements and hung it in the class. We review them throughout the day, especially during transitions, which can be tricky!

Students also shared their Hopes and Dreams.  The banners are beautiful representations of the little ones we work with, but also serve as reminders of our class goals and the work we need to do. Wishing you a joyous and harmonious school year.



The Magical Day: Book Review

the magical dayThe over arching K/1 social studies theme in class this school year is the World of Work, an investigation of how different community systems work together to keep them thriving. Since we have been discussing and investigating at length, the essential components necessary to maintain a thriving community, I was eager to read The Magical Day, by Sandra Elaine Scott and Illustrated by Jasmine Mills.

Prior to reading this beginner chapter book, we have read several books that lend themselves to discussing the concept of community. Students listed what they believed to be important factors in having a well run community.  They noted that shelter, health, education, safety, water and food were important components of a thriving community.

When I read, The Magical Day, my little ones quickly made many types of connections. In this story, 8 year old Donovan visits his cousin in the US and spends a day connecting with several community members who teach him various life skills. Donovan, an 8 year old who is multi-ethnic, curious and independent visits with a firefighter, a soldier, a graffiti artist, an athlete, a nun, a librarian, and a gardener.


As I read the book, my students made the connection with the firefighter since we had recently visited the fireboat station. Another student said, “This reminds me of the book, Pink Fire Trucks. It’s about being brave!” When we read the chapter of the little girl in a wheelchair who was practicing to be in the Olympics – my students said the little girl had grit. And what I found most amazing was what they had to say about the gardener. In previous book discussions we learned that some communities don’t have access to healthy fruits and vegetables, also known as food deserts. Students said that food deserts are a broken system and that they would like to do something to remedy the problem. They are now doing odd jobs at home and earning money to support SoLa Food Co-op (South Los Angeles Food Co-op).

We watched this video and 5th graders even did some research on food deserts. The students compiled a powerpoint and shared their findings to our little ones. It was a wonderful and organic example of community, and how we are all interrelated and dependent on each other.

The Magical Day was a great addition to our study, the World of Work. It sparked great conversations, connections and motivated our students to be agents of change. I really liked the last page where students were able to use the diagram provided to retell the story. This resource is especially beneficial for struggling readers since the chart provides some support in retelling the main ideas of the story. I also really appreciated that the characters in the story showed varied and diverse members in our communities.







Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2016: Hands Around The Library


In celebration of Multicultural Children’s Book Day (January 27th, 2016), we read Hands Around The Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books, written by Susan L. Roth and Karen Leggett Abouraya. This powerful story tells of the movement that took place in Egypt in 2011 when people of all ages stood up to protect the great Library of Alexandria. The story is told in first person, making it easier for young children to follow and understand the importance of this protest, in a country where people’s freedoms were not being honored. The story begins…

          Once upon a time, not long ago, many people in Egypt were

          sad and sometimes angry, because they were not free to speak, 

          or vote as they wished, or gather in groups. They knew about 

          freedom, but only from books, or the internet, or whispering inside

          these safe walls of our Alexandria Library. 

The collages by Susan L. Roth are also really creative. They are rich with colors and emotions.


          After reading the story, we made a systems map on why libraries are important. The students had great understanding of the functionality of libraries and made many connections. Some of the comments were that libraries are important because it’s a place for learning and knowledge as well as reading about important people like Martin Luther King Jr. and Harriet Tubman.

library systems map

Library Systems Map by k/1 Students

We then listed the overarching concepts that were mentioned in the story and discussed how people can change the world for the better. We asked the students,  “What do you stand up for? ” and “How do you make the world better?”  We took pictures of them holding a whiteboard where they wrote what they stand up for. In response to how they make the world better, answers ranged from helping my mom, picking up trash at the beach, feeding the homeless and being nice to my sister. I was really pleased with the depth of understanding my little ones demonstrated and hopeful that our young will continue to carve out a path of peace, freedom and justice for all.

I stand up for…

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The MCCBD team’s mission is to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book.

Multicultural Children’s Book day 2016 Medallion Level Sponsors! #ReadYourWorld

Platinum: Wisdom Tales Press * StoryQuest Books*Lil Libros

Gold: Author Tori Nighthawk*Candlewick Press

Silver: Lee and Low Books*Chronicle Books*Capstone Young Readers

Bronze: Pomelo Books* Author Jacqueline Woodson*Papa Lemon Books*Goosebottom Books*Author Gleeson Rebello*ShoutMouse Press*Author Mahvash Shahegh* China Institute.org*

Multicultural Children’s Book Day has 12 amazing Co-Host and you can view them here.

A free copy was sent to me for an honest review and I was not compensated.

Gratitude for Community Yoga: Making yoga accessible to people of color


Candlelight Gratitude Yoga Class at Mary’s Dance Fitness

A year ago I was given the priveledge of starting a community yoga class in Hawthorne, California. A little more than half of the population in this city is Latino and about 28% are African American. When I started practicing yoga almost six years ago, I would go to yoga studios in the beach cities and notice that I was a part of a small minority in the group. Two years ago I decided to get my yoga certification in the hopes of offering yoga classes to people who might not have access to yoga studios.

As stated in the article, Why Your Yoga Class is So White, “a 2009 study in the Journal of Religion and Health found that 63 percent of African Americans and 50 percent of Hispanic Americans pray to improve their health. Only 17 and 12 percent, respectively, reported relying on an alternative spiritual practice like meditation or yoga to stay healthy, and almost everyone in that group also prays. In contrast, twice as many white Americans identify with alternative spiritual practices and don’t pray at all.” (July,2014).  In my experience, I have seen many people of color sincerely interested in the practice of yoga. However, many have shared that they felt out of place being in a white studio, the cost of classes were out of their budgets and they felt divided in terms of respecting their religion while learning about yoga.


Mari lighting a gratitude candle – owner of Mary’s Dance Fitness

For the last year, Mary’s Dance Fitness, a zumba studio, has let me have a weekly yoga class. The cost is $5 for an hour class. Patrons have gathered to learn the basics of yoga while flowing to a myriad of Spanish ballads. Classes are typically taught in English, Spanish and Spanglish in an intimate and relaxed setting. The space is not the typical yoga studio with its swanky and cool interior – but it’s enough for one to learn, relax and unwind. Fortunately, some of the yogis who came when we first started this community yoga class have now ventured out to find yoga studios and styles that complement their yoga practice. And that was the goal – for every day folks to learn about yoga and make it their own.

Here are some of the comments shared by yogis whose first experience of yoga has been through this community class:

  • Hatha yoga led me to explore Kundalini and since then practice both daily. Sometimes Kundalini more so than Hatha because of time constraints. I find both practices to be similar in ways but yet slightly different. The kriyas that I’ve learned and practice through Kundalini have been extremely beneficial to my overall health and well being.  -N.L.
  • Community yoga has given me a local and affordable place to practice quieting my mind and syncing with my breath in the company of supportive women. -P.I.
  • I love that I get to clear my mind while getting a great workout. It truly feels like my arms and legs are longer every time I’m done doing yoga. Gradually, I’ve felt more comfortable with the yoga world and even ventured into trying hot yoga and barre yoga. Thank you for the wonderful introduction to your world. -T.V.
  • Community yoga has connected me with my home where I was born and raised. …Yoga brings me home, it brings me peace, and the joy I feel after spending this time with my roots is beyond any other experience. -J.V.
  • I never thought yoga would change my perspective on life as much as it has. Every class I attended offered me the opportunity to take a step back and appreciate my existence. I genuinely love that yoga teaches me to breathe every day. It teaches me to not be afraid of truly feeling. Although sometimes in tears, yoga makes me happy! -J.J.
little yogini

Little yogini lighting a gratitude candle

I am super humbled and grateful to be la maestra de yoga. As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, we had a candlelight gratitude yoga class. It was a very soothing class and I felt like the luckiest person in the world because I was surrounded by kind souls that have come together to create community. What I’m really enjoying is how some yogis are bringing their children to yoga – sweetness.

Wishing you a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

The purpose of life is to be beautiful, to be bountiful, to be blissful, to be graceful and grateful. What a wonderful English word—grateful. If one is great and full, one is God. And whenever smallness faces you, you should be great. And full. Full of that greatness. 
-Yogi Bhajan 





Yoga For Water – A Community Event Recap!

water for life. yoga 8.29

Today was an amazing day! We had a special yoga class at Mary’s Dance Fitness to raise funds for La Mission’s – Yoga For Water event. Many studios in and around California donated their time and proceeds to support La Mission Por Vida, a non profit organization that provides families in developing countries clean drinking water.

When I first heard of this event, I asked Mari, the owner of Mary’s Dance Fitness, (a zumba studio) if she would be willing to open her doors so we could host this event. She immediately said yes, saying that it is important that we help each other in any way possible, just as God helps us in our lives.

Last night as I prepared for the yoga class, I prayed that people show up to support this community event. When I arrived to the studio, I was delighted to see a room full of yogis. Mother Teresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” It was a beautiful testimony to the power of community – and how together, we can create ripples of peace and goodwill.

yoga for water crew.8.29.15

Today’s yoga class was designed around the element of water: finding flow and fluidity in our busy lives. We flowed to the sounds of Reggae on this hot Saturday morning and built up a healthy sweat. We even got cool bracelets!

I would like to thank all of the yogis who carved out time from their busy lives to come support this community event. St. Margaret Center in Lennox and St. Joseph Church in Hawthorne – a huge thank you for spreading the word. And Mari, again – mil gracias for opening your studio with open arms and allowing us to be part of the solution.  –Namaste

yoga for water bracelets

Also, if you are close to Hawthorne, CA -be sure to check out Mary’s Dance Fitness’ zumba schedule. Mari is a fun and dynamic dancer and her classes are the best! I also teach a community yoga class on Thursdays (8-9PM) and classes are $5.00

Mary’s Dance Fitness

15010 Prairie Avenue

Hawthorne, CA 90250

(next to Mariscos Tijuanas – parking in the back)

If you would like to donate to La Mission’s – Yoga For Water, please follow this link.