Friends For Change
penniesThe term “going green” has become an increasingly popular slogan for environmental awareness and preservation. However, this coined phrase is not only an international campaign, but a lifestyle that more and more people are adopting, particularly children, teens, and young adults. The advantages of going green not only benefit the environment but our wallets as well. Keep in mind that everyone can hop on the green bandwagon by gradually incorporating daily habits that will help preserve the environment and our savings.

One thing we can all do to conserve energy is as easy as the flip of a switch. Make sure all lights (and appliances in the house) are turned off and unplugged when not in use. When you’re done playing games on the web, turn your computer off. If we shut our machines off before we leave school or go to bed at night, we’ll save an average of $90 worth of electricity a year. If you must leave your computer on, put it in “sleep” mode which saves power as well. Put a student in charge of being the “watt watcher” every time you leave the classroom (or house) and “watch watt” happens! At Westwood, we actually got rebate funds twice in one semester for conserving the most energy in the district.

Another way to help kids preserve energy at home is to encourage them to wash their clothes in cold water whenever possible. As much as 85% of the energy used to machine-wash clothes goes to heating water. They can also use a drying rack or clothesline to save the energy otherwise used during machine drying.

It’s important to our health to consume the recommended daily water intake, but trade out expensive bottled water for a reusable water bottle, preferably aluminum rather than plastic. Not only is bottled water expensive, but it generates large amounts of container waste. Encourage your students to focus on just a few daily activity modifications to reduce their carbon footprint, then have them pass the word on to friends and family and start educating them on how easy it is to “go green!” Have them blog about it online or post eco-friendly reminder slogans on their white boards. Click here for more ideas from Disney’s Project Green Campaign.

*Note: This article was adapted from the JSC Federal Credit Union’s Spring Finanacial Network Newsletter.

Moving From Me To We
recyclersBased on the popular Playhouse Disney characters Charlie and Lola, the book We are Extremely Very Good Recyclers is the perfect metaphor for the power of the people to preserve our planet. In this “go green” gem, little Lola learns that when we recycle, or “reuse OLD things in a different and NEW-ish way,” it benefits not only us individually but also collectively. She starts small by trying to win a tree of her own to plant. She even gets a tree counter poster – and you will, too, when you buy this book – to keep track of her recycling efforts. But when she struggles to collect three hundred things to recycle in just two weeks by herself, she moves from ME to WE by getting the students in her school on board: “So everyone at school starts recycling.” Even so, it seems they’ll fall short of their goal until Lola’s friend Morten comes through in the end with some “treasures” from his brother’s bedroom.

That surprise ending is sure to bring a big laugh, but will also be a talking point for your students about whether or not we go into someone else’s room without their permission. Find out from your students what they think about that issue before you delve into the conservation piece. How was Lola doing in the contest when she was by herself? What happened when she rallied her school friends to help? Why does a tree make the perfect prize for this contest?

Then talk to your students about the concept of ME to WE. Have them point three fingers down to make an M. Explain that Lola planted the seeds for the recycling program and the roots grew down deep into the ground because of the ME. Next, take your three fingers and point them into the air to make a W and show that the program grew and they won the tree when she got her friends on board to make WE. So it is with conservation. The “go green” movement will continue to gain momentum as it moves from ME to WE, so start replacing those plastic grocery sacks with reusable bags and your students will likely follow suit.

There are more tips about ways to help look after your planet on the inside of the the front and back covers of this book.

Host A Friendship March

mirandaTo celebrate peace and citizenship, consider hosting a class or community Friendship March. First, read aloud the story Miranda Peabody and the Magnificent Friendship March, written and illustrated by Dr. Susan DeBell. Rich with points to ponder about bullies, bystanders and friends, this tale is certain to ignite some interesting discussion about Maxie, the school bully, and Miranda, her victim and ultimate friendship mentor. Miranda tries different ways to problem solve when Maxie pushes her around at recess and in school. What will work to stop this mean little girl? And how does her story relate to what’s going on at your school?

At Westwood, each classroom is posted a NO-TEASE ZONE. Find out if your students think that posting a sign helps cut down on teasing, put downs, and bullying. Why or why not? Discuss or journal what else needs to happen to make a classroom a peaceful place. Enjoy your students’ perspective, use the activity suggestions in the back of the book for enrichment, then bring Miranda’s story to life by making Peace Posters and going on a Friendship March of your own.

NOTE: This magnificent idea was passed along by Angie Morrison, a colleague in Tuscaloosa, AL. We’d love to hear how your Friendship March goes, so why not encourage your students to write to us and let us know!

Service Projects versus Service Learning

d1nt-nice-o-holicWhen we talk with the our Westwood family about Citizenship, we explain that good citizens make wherever they go better because they’re there. This concept is reinforced by movements like Do ONE Nice Thing, Pay It Forward, and Random Acts of Kindness. Over the years, we’ve collected pencils for children in Africa, underwear for orphans in the Ukraine, and fabric for homeless women in Oklahoma. Closer to home we’ve donated blankets and baby hats to the Center for Pregnancy, non-perishables to Christian Helping Hands, Coats to Hurricane Ike victims, and surplus school supplies to Interfaith Caring Ministries. With a myriad of opportunities to donate and make a difference, the children are learning to make where they go, better. Our newest focus is to turn these service projects into service-learning experiences.

d1nt-habit-formingThe CAREacter Crew is working on ways to integrate our 2009 Holiday Food Drive into the curriculum so that students are not only bringing in items for donation, but also making a curricular connection. Can they weigh the items? Sort the items? Compare and contrast nutritional values? Estimate costs? Do some research on the product? Match the items to the food pyramid? Create an advertising campaign for the goods? You CAN see that the extention possibilities seem endless. And the value added to the learning through this exercise? Priceless!

Escape to Weslandia
Weslandia by Paul Fleischman

weslandiaSimple SynopsisWesley is not an ordinary boy.  In fact, he’s tormented because of his eccentricities.  In this exceptional fantasy about escaping the ordinary and embracing the extraordinary, Wesley creates a new world, complete with a new language, a new counting system, even new games and sports.  Weslandia.  Those students who tormented him for his individuality are now curious about Weslandia and he returns from summer vacation to find that “he had no shortage of friends.”  Once an outcast, Wesley has found his way.

This story can be a fantastic lesson in having the integrity to stand up for your beliefs, in being kind and caring, in treating people fairly, and in respecting the dignity of all individuals and their ideas.  It was also be a springboard for a discussion on how good citizens can fit into their society without everyone being the same.  After reading this book aloud, use the following questions to generate a discussion that will reinforce the character traits so beautifully illustrated by this story:

1.  Why was Wesley miserable?  Is being different a bad thing?
2.  What specific behaviors made Wesley an outcast from his civilization?
3.  Are these things really important?   Why or why not?
4.  Does anyone you know live in a neighborhood like Wesley’s?  Who?
5.  How does Wesley escape?
6.  When have you felt the need to escape into your own little world?
5.  Name some ways that Weslandia is unique.
7.  Why does Wesley include the other children in his adventure? If you were Wesley, would you let the other kids be a part of Weslandia?  Why or why not?
8.  Does it work better if everyone is the same in a family?  A class?  A school?  A community?
9.  How do we benefit from the differences that people bring?
10.  What can we learn from Wesley?
11.  Why was it important to Wesley that he returned to school with friends?
12.  What does this story have to do with citizenship?

Follow-up and reinforcement activities:

1.  Act This Way Activity
Students can bring this story to life by acting out the part of the story that they liked the best.  This can be done through dialogue or pantomime in small groups.  Students will need time to discuss what they want to say and do, write it down, rehearse it, then present their little scene in front of the class.  They should be ready to explain what made this scene their favorite.

2.  Model Behavior
Using modeling clay or Play Dough, the students should be given an opportunity to visually recreate Wesley’s fantasy about escaping the ordinary to embrace the extraordinary.  Specific pages of the book can be assigned – or the students can simply be to be creative and build their own personal escape.  Students will be expected to show and tell about their creations.

3.  Character Kids
Using the outline of the body of a person, have students create their very own Character Kid.  First, have them name their Kid using a character trait and a name:  Honest Henry, for example, or Trustworthy Tim.  Students can color their Kids, then think of things that their Kid might say.  Trustworthy Tim might say, “Trust me!” or “Honest!”  Have them draw a dialogue bubble and give their Kid a phrase or two.  Display these Kids on a Wall of Fame or a Bulletin Board.

4.  What’s In A Name?
Wesley creates Weslandia from his name.  What else can we do with names?  On a piece of white or colored paper or card stock (cut into the shape of a person or a t-shirt), students will create a first-name acrostic (slogan, motto or list of traits) that shows who they are and what they stand for.  Remind them of the Six Pillars of Character and guide them to use as many of those values as possible. When they have their words picked out and their names completed, have the students decorate them with symbols or pictures that illustrate the traits.

Wesley’s name, for example, might look like this:

W – Warm

E – Eccentric

S – Sensitive

L – Loyal

E – Enthusiastic

Y – Youthful