Jena Ball – Taking Down the Walls

Take Down the Walls2
I believe one of THE most important things we can do for our kids is to give them an opportunity to experience their own power. By power I mean the chance to articulate and share something that has meaning for them and get a response from the world. It is by finding their voice  (their own unique ways to express their thoughts and opinions) that they discover they have a role to play and their participation in our collective process is vital to its success. These are the kind of adults we want and need to be raising – caring, compassionate, engaged and above all capable of using their unique abilities to have a positive impact.

Engagement with the “real world” in the form of project based learning is built into the CritterKin stories and every project we run at every school, camp and after school program. We not only read stories, but ask kids to research and tell their own stories so that they are heard and have the chance to see that what they create has an impact on others.

This summer, CritterKin is working with 150 students in the Valley View School District in Illinois who are currently reading about and formulating their own ideas on how best to educate a local community about pit bulls. After reading the book, Lead With Your Heart with me, they are forming and articulating their own opinions by writing, drawing, making videos, taking photographs and creating collaborative “Kindness Quilts.” The quits will be on display at the end of our six weeks along with the students’ stories of how the process unfolded for them.

To see some of the kids’ amazing work, visit their Pinterest boards here:

I couldn’t be prouder of these kids, but more importantly they are living proof that when the walls to our schools are permeable the lives of our kids expand and are enriched.  Thanks to six committed and patient teachers, and a supportive tech and administrative staff, I visit these classes virtually once a week.  For one hour, we take down the walls between my world in North Carolina and theirs in Illinois and explore important topics like feeling different, bullying and how to handle prejudice and fear. We also have an enormous amount of fun, which after all is the most important fuel for my own and the students’ learning. Seeing their smiles and the sparkle in their eyes when they think of something they want to share is what gets me up in the morning. It’s the thing that makes being an author-educator one of the best jobs in the world.

If you would like to help take down the walls, consider joining the Not Perfect Ha Club Blog It Challenge (#NPHCBlogIt)  this fall, or give us a call to discuss how we might customize a CritterKin program for your school. We’d be delighted to hear from you!

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