OneWord

OneWord2017: Compassionate

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Last year, like many others, I participated in the #OneWord challenge. One Word is a unique way to reflect and focus on something meaningful to you in the upcoming year that can be expressed in one word. My 2017 ‘word’ was compassionate.

I thought I knew and understood compassion. But it wasn’t until I found myself in the neurosurgical ICU holding my husband’s hand praying he would survive the weekend that a whole new experience opened up to me. It is in this experience that the depth of compassion fully struck me.

Much of my writing and work with youth revolves around compassionate making. Where we actively use our makerspace to create items for others with the hope of alleviating suffering around the world. While I thought I knew compassion and how to inspire and share compassionate acts, it has been the past four months that have given me a new perspective and deeper understanding.

My husband is a well-respected physician in our community. Over and over again I’ve been told by patients and colleagues how much they admire his kindness and compassion.   Since this past August, it has been his turn to be the patient and the recipient of kindness and compassion.

Healthcare Providers

Day in and day out, millions of healthcare providers demonstrate compassion on a daily basis. My husband, myself and our family have seen and experienced the beauty of compassion in a healthcare environment. Even when my husband  transferred to a different unit on another floor, nurses and aides from the previous unit would visit on him and check up on me. Such beauty in dedication and caring.

Therapy Dogs

There is a new place in my heart for those who train and work with therapy dogs. Thanks to these caring, dedicated people, patients stuck in healthcare facilities can feel a loving connection even though they are away from their own furry family members.

Nate’s Get Well Bot

Even our three year old nephew tried to help. It’s not typical to bring a three-year old to an ICU unit, but Nate wanted to visit Uncle Alan and my niece wanted to ensure my well-being. Leery at first because he didn’t understand all the beeping machines, his mother explained the machines were robots to make people better. Later that evening Nate decided he needed to design a robot to make Uncle Alan better. Never underestimate the depth of compassion our youth have.

Blood Donors

During the course of my husband’s extended stay, probably due to multiple blood draws during this time, he required a blood transfusion. We host an annual blood drive at my high school every year and I can honestly say I never really thought about the act of donating blood and specifically how it affects the patient and his/her family. I want to take this time to thank each and every blood donor for their precious gift – giving of themselves in such a selfless act.

Friends

Over the months, there have been so many kind and compassionate friends, co-workers, colleagues and acquaintances who gave gifts, provided kind words of encouragement,  food and copious amounts of wine and chocolate. I truly experienced compassion on a daily basis.

Youth Makers

As you can tell from my previous blog posts, I embrace a maker mindset and specifically sharing that enthusiasm with youth mostly in the form of making for others. We were delighted to be the recipients of some creative youth maker activities, especially our Hanukkah gift from students at Bais Yaakov. It’s not fun celebrating traditionally home based holidays in a hospital setting.

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#OneWord2018?

What will 2018 hold in store for us? No one ever truly knows. Perhaps, my one word for 2018 should be gratitude – gratitude to be alive, gratitude for compassionate people in our lives. I am grateful for so many things I previously took for granted. Though, I must admit, I was leaning towards patience for this year’s word as I know this journey is not over. Perhaps should fill my 2018 #oneword plate with  gratitude (and a side of patience).

 

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Happy New Year

 

#NotAtAASL

#NotAtAASL: Makers With a Cause Conference Session Resources

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This past week scores of library professionals descended upon Phoenix. Though scheduled to attend and present, I was not among my colleagues this weekend. While transferring between healthcare facilities and advocating for my husband, I viewed numerous tweets and posts of arrivals, keynotes and conference sessions. My husband suffered a brain bleed, decompressive craniotomy and AVM resection, followed by surgery for a VP shunt. Yes, he’s a hot mess. Though not participating in person this year, I knew I was in the right place; beside my husband of thirty years.

My session, Makers With a Cause, was scheduled for Saturday afternoon. Sharing our successful MakerCare program at Islip High School is something I enjoy doing. Indeed, you can find our program mentioned in the following titles:

 

Since I was unable to attend AASL, in addition to the above titles, I have compiled a list of resources that serve as the basis for my presentations. Granted if you want the full picture, you’ll have to wait for my book, Makers with a Cause: Creative Service Projects for Library Youth (Libraries Unlimited, 2018).

Resources:

School Library Journal: Struck by Tragedy, a NY High School Heals Through “Compassionate Making”

The evolution of our MakerCare program at Islip High School.

Ideas + Inspiration from Demco: How to Inspire Students to be Compassionate Makers (Seymour)

Great go-to guide to starting a compassionate maker program.

Gina Seymour Blog

Search this site for numerous project ideas and anecdotal stories.

Islip High School LibGuides: The Compassionate Maker

Project ideas with instructions and images.

Laura Fleming: Out of the Box Approach to Planning Makerspaces

Compassionate making along with many other creative ‘out of the box’ makerspaces.

Change Makers

Those of you who follow this blog know about our MakerCare program. We use our school library makerspace to create items for others. We model and encourage empathic behaviors inspiring students to make a difference in their community. This is the cornerstone of our program: compassionate making. Using our makerspace to nurture compassion and empathy; to bring help to those in need.

 A member of our teaching staff approached me to ask how the MakerCare program worked. I explained, it’s really simple, if someone sees a need and there’s a way for us to help, we’ll do it. That’s when she shared with me her situation. Her nephew, diagnosed with cerebral palsy, was in need of bibs; could we help make some? She brought in a sample and it was a simple straight stich, two pieces of fabric sandwiched between a washcloth. We could handle that.

 While the library makerspace has two sewing machines available to all, I have to say many of our projects are successful due to our FACS sewing teacher, Mrs. Stevens. Her sewing class has already participated in Little Dresses for Africa and has made catnip toys for our local animal shelter. Some of her students are fast learners and find themselves with extra time, so how better to fill that time than in service to others. So, FACS students pitched in. In all, a dozen bibs were sewn and given to the family. MakerCare is flexible in that we open service opportunities to all, be it a class, club or individuals. All are invited to make a difference.

 We are at the end of our school year ending with service to a staff member and donations to our elementary school.

Over the past year we have:

·         helped African school girls (Little Dresses for Africa)

·         shown random acts of kindness (I Found a Quilted Heart)

·         written to support our troops and veterans

·         offered comfort to hospitalized children (Sending Smiles)

·         made numerous dog toys and catnip toys for our local animal shelter

·         made a plarn sleep mat for the homeless

·         made plarn jump ropes for one of our elementary schools

·         sewed cerebral palsy bibs

·         participated in Youth Uplift Challenge (Students Rebuild)

·         provided handmade greeting cards to HS community

·         hosted a #make the holidays gift event

·         hosted a mental health break from mid-terms (and upcoming finals)

·         hosted Art Therapy with graduate art therapy students

It feels good to make a difference in the lives of others. I am grateful to have had the privilege to work with youth who not only care, but also are determined to be the change.

Got Plarn?

MakerCare: Service Projects

As part of our MakerCare program, we use our school makerspace to create items to be donated to a variety of community agencies. In the Fall we made plarn sleep mats for the homeless. It’s a great project, but for some this may be too time consuming. We had to cut up over 500 plastic bags, then all the crocheting in order to make just one mat.

Well, here’s another option for those who want to upcycle plastic bags but have limited time working with youth – plarn jump ropes. Each jump rope requires only 21-27 plastic bags and a small amount of duct tape. Additionally, you only need to cut off the handles and the bottom seams of the bags instead of the additional step of cutting the middle of the bag into strips. Really simple.

Here are instructions:

1. Have a collection drive asking for plastic bags*

2. Lay plastic bag flat on a table (you can do several at a time)

3. Cut off the handles of the bag and cut off the bottom seam

4. Link the bag circles to attach 7-9 bags** (see image)

5. Repeat steps 2-4 until you have 3 strands of plarn

6. Now, braid the 3 strands

7. Wrap the ends in a bit of duct tape to form the jump rope handles

*Any plastic bag can be upcycled. I also use the delivery newspaper sleeves. I do recommend cutting the sleeve in half before linking the circles, otherwise it’s very thick! However, you can experiment and see what works for you. I’ve even upcycled the dry cleaning clothes covers to make plarn.

**Adjust length based on the age range of your designated youth. Longer ropes can be made as well.

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This is an easy project in any location. I helped make a jump rope at an on-site service opportunity at The 28th Annual Service Learning Conference. And I plan to make these and other toys at the Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire in June. (If you’re in NY or on Long Island, join me!)

 

To Learn, To Serve

At Islip High School Library, we use our makerspace for service learning opportunities. Several science classes, AP Environmental and Marine Biology, are studying the effects of plastic in the ocean and on the environment in general. Here’s a great way to learn and to serve. You see, after our students make the plarn jump ropes, they will be donated to one of our elementary schools for PE class. Just think – our students learn about the environment, upcycle, and have an impact on the health and wellness of other students in their community.

 

Change Agent

In December,  I was notified by Library Journal that I’d been selected as a Mover & Shaker for 2017. To say I was excited is putting things mildly. Unfortunately, I had read the email notification while working on my book at my local public library. So excited I had to scoot into the stacks to avoid a scene. When that didn’t work, I packed up my laptop and headed for home. Calling my husband from the parking lot (I couldn’t wait to tell someone), I didn’t get the response I expected or hoped for. After interrupting me to shout at the TV – it was football Sunday – my husband was congratulatory but nonchalant. It’s hard to explain LJ Movers & Shakers to non-library folk. I’d have to wait for my peers.

In January, I attended the LJ photoshoot at the Ritz-Carleton in Atlanta during the ALA img_7149MidWinter conference. It was a rainy Saturday, the Women’s March was on and the city was preparing for the Super Bowl. So much happening that weekend. As I entered the suite, I met some amazing librarians waiting their turn with the photographer. We introduced ourselves and chatted. I was awed by the projects and programming going on across the country.

After the shoot  all that was left was to await the formal announcement in March and to find out what category I was in. You see, they tell you you’re on the list but don’t tell you your category. Would I be placed with ‘Educators’ or ‘Community Builder’? I really couldn’t guess. Our inclusive MakerCare program is a community service based model teaching teens about social action and civic engagement. Using our school library makerspace, we create items to benefit agencies and organizations in need of assistance. I like to call this compassionate making. We strive to make the community and world a better place. To be the change we wish to see.


Change Agent. That’s my category for LJ’s Movers & Shakers 2017. I think it’s fitting. To quote one of my favorite service learning gurus, Cathryn Berger Kaye, “teachers must become agents of change for students to become change agents. When this is done in overt ways, students discover what change looks like and can then choose to adopt favorable behaviors to change internally and externally.” (2010, p. 242)

Yes, that’s what we all should be when we grow up – a change agent. Every generation nurtures the next. I challenge you to be the change agent your student will become!

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To Learn and to Serve

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Thank you Twitter. It was during one of my many ed chats that someone referred me to the National Youth Leadership Council’s Service Learning Conference. This is due to my interest and participation in service projects with my students at Islip High School. After looking up the conference details, the first thing that struck me was the location – Anaheim, CA.

I’m going to Disneyland!!! It was perfect. I’d get to visit my son, a SoCal resident, network and learn with service learning professionals and go to Disney. That’s a trifecta; sign me up. SLC hosted a pre-conference day of service which I readily signed up for. In for a penny, in for a pound. I might as well serve while learning about serving. We learn by doing. I even took a red eye arriving at LAX at 1:30am to participate in the 7:30am beach cleanup. I slept for 2 hours on the flight, I’d be fine! Though exhausted, I had a wonderfully inspiring day. I met and worked alongside two educators – one a principal from AZ and the other from a university in Alabama. We did pre-service and post service reflections and learned about the oceans and environment. Please do not bring Styrofoam to the beach – better yet, don’t use it at all.  My dream is to never have to pick up pieces of Styrofoam off a beach ever again. Bring reusable items and take them back home with you.

 

This was my first Service Learning Conference, so I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t expect so many students. The young people in attendance were so inspiring, well spoken, confident and above all, passionate. Passionate about the issues that mattered to them and to their communities. I am still in awe of these remarkable young men and women. How do we encourage others to follow their example? That is my goal – to inspire, to encourage, to model and to assist and enable my students to serve, to make a difference and to be the change.

There were inspirational plenary sessions, interactive workshops and numerous networking activities. And I took advantage of as many as possible. What I liked most was all the onsite service activities in the exhibit hall and that they were predominantly run by youth. So many causes, so many willing helpers. I made a doll, one of 500, that will be donated to the Anaheim Police Department. When children are exposed to traumatic situations officers can offer the child a cuddly stuff doll to help put the child at ease.

This onsite service opportunity not only took advantage of willing participants but helped spread awareness to causes. I met some young ladies from New Foundations Charter School who were using upcycled plastic bags in unique ways as a way of spreading awareness of ocean pollution. I’ve already used plastic bags in my service projects (plarn sleepmats for the homeless), so they piqued my interest.

You’ll be hearing more about these awesome projects on this blog and in my upcoming book, Makers with a Cause. I’m still trying to process all the amazing work being done across the United States by amazing students, dedicated educators and passionate organizations.

Did I mention the conference was at the Disneyland Resort? Well, when in Rome…

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Got Heart?

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In preparation for Random Acts of Kindness Day, students are using the MakerCare center at Islip High School to create handmade fabric hearts. MakerCare is a program within our makerspace dedicated to service projects. This month we will implement the I Found a Quilted Heart initiative in preparation of Random Acts of Kindness Day (Feb 17) and Random Acts of Kindness Week (Feb. 12-18).”The IFAQH project is simple: place hearts in a public place to be found by a random stranger.  That’s it!” No special skills are needed to make the hearts. Take a look – http://www.ifoundaquiltedheart.com/the-stories/


 Supplies will be left out in the library makerspace all month. Makers can create as many hearts as they wanted or make just one. Staff members were welcome to join us in making hearts.

 

This project couldn’t be simpler or cheaper. Granted, I’ve collected a large donated collection of various fabric so I didn’t have to purchase any. And I always have scissors, needle and thread on hand. If you need fabric, take to social media and spread the word. You’ll get donations. Every crafter has scraps of fabric waiting for a project or good cause. And this project is perfect for scraps.

When you’re done making your heart(s), be sure to leave in a public place for someone to find. There are some guidelines you should be aware of before placing the heart.

 February is  the perfect month for this project for a trifecta of reasons. First, Random Acts of Kindness Day is Feb. 17. Second, Valentine’s Day is the 14th and we all know we’ll see a plethora of hearts and that may make us feel good or not so good depending on our emotional status at the time. Remember, everyone deserves love and kindness and to feel good, regardless of relationship status. The third reason February is a good month is that it coincides with our school Mid-Winter break. Our handmade hearts can be far reaching if taken on vacation with our students to be shared across the county, state, country or beyond.

We’re all on this planet together right? Let’s make our communities warm, friendly happy places filled with love. So get out your fabric scraps, scissors, needle and thread and sow kindness. Because kindness matters.

Let’s MAKE the world we want to live in!

Make kindness matter with this simple project. Want to join us? Here’s a few helpful links:

  FAQs

http://ifoundaquiltedheart.com/faqs

  Guidelines for leaving your hearts in public places (such as don’t leave them at airports, etc) http://www.ifoundaquiltedheart.com/sowing/

 PDF of guidelines to use with your group http://www.ifoundaquiltedheart.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Sowing-Guidelines.pdf