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Tiny Teach: Recipe #4

November 23rd, 2015

Our game Tiny Teach from Great Group Games has worked so well for us that we created a different version for younger children. It’s called Little Professors, Little Einsteins (Great Group Games for Kids).  It follows the same principle of sharing and teaching but adds prompts to help younger youth think more concretely about what they know how to do from given categories such as games, sports, or . . . the kitchen.

And speaking of kitchens, here is this week’s recipe shared by a participant who played Tiny Teach with us in one of our workshops.  A quick recipe you can use to bring to the Thanksgiving potluck!

2 Minute Fudge

Mix Reese’s pieces with vanilla icing. Nuke for 1 minute.  Stir. Nuke every 10 seconds until completely melted. Spread in pan and put in fridge to set.


Tiny Teach: Recipe #3

November 16th, 2015

One of the best times that Ann and I have in our professional development workshops is watching participants teach each other skills and knowledge when we lead the game, Tiny Teach.  We have laughed and learned so much more about the people in the room and what they like to do.

Recipes are one of the most popular sharings from the group (as is dancing!).  Here is our third week’s pick of recipes we’ve learned.  Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Pie

Pudding Ingredients

  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 tsp butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Crumb Mixture Ingredients

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 tsp cocoa powder

Pie Completion Ingredients

  • 3 inch pie crust, baked
  • 3 cups whipped cream

To make pudding:

Mix corn starch, salt, 1 cup of milk, egg yolks and vanilla with a wire whisk and set aside.  Heat 3 cups of milk, with the butter and sugar until scalding, stirring constantly. Add cornstarch mixture to hot milk while stirring with whisk. Cook until thickened. Remove from heat before boiling.

Place pudding in refrigerator to chill. Stir every 10 minutes.

To make crumb mixture:

Mix powdered sugar, cocoa, and peanut butter until small crumbs form (with mixer).

Place 1/2 crumbs into pie shell. Spoon pudding onto crumbs. Place remaining crumbs on top of pudding, reserving a little for the topping. Top with whipped cream (homemade is best, but cool whip will work).

Tiny Teach: Recipe #2

November 9th, 2015

In our second week of sharing recipes we’ve learned from the game Tiny Teach, we want to share 1 tip for the game to go along with the recipe.

Tip:  Use Tiny Teach (from Great Group Games) for youth-adult pairings.  This game is the perfect opportunity to help youth and adults realize that they have much to share and learn from each other.  Over the years we have frequently used this game to even the playing field as we prep youth and adults to serve together on boards.  Since both get to teach whatever they want, whatever it is they know something about, it allows them both to be both teacher and learner . . . and begins to create the ground work for mutual respect.

You can gain more games and activities to use in workshops and trainings from our book Get Things Going.

Now for the recipe:

Fruit Dip

  • 1 8 oz. bar of Philly cream cheese – let set at room temperature
  • 1 small jar of Smuckers caramel sauce
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 box of powdered sugar
  • white bread
  • butter
  • cinnamon
  • sugar

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine cream cheese and caramel sauce.  Blend cream cheese mix with 1 egg yolk and a box of powdered sugar. Melt butter and mix with cinnamon and sugar.

Take the bread; roll it out with a pin to flatten and cut off the crust.  Smear onto the bread the blended mix, and then roll it up and dip it in a butter, cinnamon, sugar mix.

Bake for 10 minutes.

What’s your favorite dip for the holidays?

MLK Spoken Word Contest

November 4th, 2015

The Metro Human Relations Commission (Nashville, TN)  is co-sponsoring the first annual Youth Spoken Word Competition for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  There are cash scholarship prizes.  Please pass this on to your staff so they may share it with churches, synagogues, mosques, and civic and community groups they are involved with.

High school and college students (or people between the ages of 14 and 22) are invited to start creating and uploading their videos. They can submit their videos now until December 1st. Participants can win cash prizes based on different categories as individuals or in groups.

The MHRC would like to give a big thank you to Neal & Harwell Law Firm and Meharry Medical Center for sponsoring the scholarships.

Find more information about the competition here:

The videos will be posted on the MLK Day YouTube page.

Two Groups, One Voice: Guest Post

November 4th, 2015

We like to highlight good work with youth.  This post made us smile and we wanted to spread the word.  Thanks to Mary Margaret Randall for the good work she’s doing and for allowing us to share this post:


On Friday, October 23rd, Cameron Middle School students were greeted by several new visitors. With smiling faces and helping hands, these friendly visitors came with one mission in mind- to help students find stories.

The class divided into two groups and joined these determined helpers as students listened to their stories, intently and without interruption. First, I sat with the group visiting storyteller Nancy Hawthorne, and we began our time together describing our favorite ice cream flavor. But next, a remarkable thing happened: we practiced our active listening skills as Nancy shared why she thought asking people questions and conducting interviews was incredibly fascinating and life-giving.

“What was your favorite thing to do as a child?” one student asked Nancy.

Nancy answered and then returned the same question to the student, which she followed with a one-word response: “Running”.

“Do you remember what the ground felt like beneath your feet when you would run as a child?” Students were taken back. The question had obviously surprised them with its  unique depth and texture.

Next, Nancy asked the student if she experienced any bad falls or skinned knees during her runs. Nancy then explained to the group that asking questions about skinned knees and scars are incredible story-openers. They inspire special memories and emotions during interviews, she told us.

“As a child, did you like school?” another student asked Nancy. A third student stated in a long exhale and a shrug that he wished he could interview God.“What would you say to God?” Nancy asked. Questions bounced around the table as students jumped in sporadically with heavy anger, curiosity and humor. “Why did you create spiders?” one student asked, and the group erupted into a chorus of laughter.

As I watched, I began to take notice: For perhaps the first time in this noisy pilot program full of weekend-ready students, light bulbs were going off and students were seeing the power of asking those deeper questions and story-structuring.

Next we sat around a different table with two additional storytellers, Othman and Hussein. These two had come to the States to learn English and were reiterating an important truth spoken again and again throughout the One Voice Nashville program: When you listen to someone, you are telling them they are important, that their stories matter.

More than anything throughout this conversation, however, students wanted to learn about the place these storytellers came from: Saudi Arabia.

“What’s the biggest difference between here and where you came from?” one student asked.

“What’s your family like?”

“Where is your family?”

Stories were exchanged, questions were answered, but more than anything, students felt connected to that deeper thread of life, depth, and meaning being shared across the table.

There were two groups this day, three storytellers, two facilitators, and twelve eighth grade students. But what was flowing through the classroom on this late Friday afternoon was a newly awakened love for story.

Two groups.

One voice.

A voice of love, connection, empathy, and courage.



To learn more, go to:

Local to the Nashville area and want to find out how you can get involved?  E-mail Mary Margaret at and check out the opportunities to be Story Partners, Ambassadors or Story Collectors.

Tiny Teach: Recipes

November 2nd, 2015

Ann and I frequently use the game Tiny Teach (from our books, Great Group Games) in some of our trainings with youth workers and educators. In this game, pairs have a limited amount of time to teach each other something they know about or know how to do. For example, someone might share how to shoot a perfect free throw, count to 10 in a different language, a dance step or . . . a favorite recipe.

We have learned many recipes over the years and thought with the holidays right around the corner that we would share a few from our files this month. Check back each Monday to gain a new recipe! Bon appetite!

Hungry Jack Casserole
Brown 1 pound of ground beef with onion, salt and pepper. Add B & M’s baked beans, tomato sauce and 1 cup of barbeque sauce; mix.  Cook until it bubbles.

Put mixture into a casserole dish; cover with 1 cup (or more) of cheddar cheese.

Take canned biscuits and tear into halves.  Layer biscuits on top of the mixture.  Put in oven and follow directions for biscuits to get the oven temp and how long to cook.

Suggestion serve with salad and mashed potatoes.

Reuniting in Service and Leadership at Cameron Middle School

October 23rd, 2015

By Angel D.

Hi, my name is Angel, and I am an alumni of goLEAD. We are a community who gathers together to change the world around us to make it a safer and better environment. I started this program in the 8th grade at Cameron Middle School teachers chose me and 19 others as leaders to represent the school.  This Saturday, October 24, is a special day for my peers and me. We will reunite on Make A Difference Day. All across the country, volunteers will work on projects to benefit their communities.  We will volunteer with other alumni from AmeriCorps, Teach For America, and Hands On Nashville to revisit the project we designed at Cameron.

This spring, we worked together for two months going through the goLEAD curriculum to select and design a courtyard legacy project. We were able to speak out ideas to the group and team up on a plan for action. We invited the community to join us in making it come together on April 24 for Global Youth Service Day. The highlight for me was seeing my peers’ faces once the project was completed. Standing back and looking at what we all had made as one brought joy and excitement about the future. I thought, “If we can do what we just did together, we can do something even bigger and better.”

One challenge during our planning was not knowing what to do with a specific part of the courtyard, which was of course in the middle—the pond. We had to come to a tough agreement about what we wanted to do specifically. We did not want to lose it as a pond, but it would be difficult to take care of, as we saw because it was filled with everything (filthiness) and surrounded by bugs. We were not allowed to be outside playing in the area at that time. We ended up convincing our goLEAD coach, Ms. Hansom, to join us on the Saturday before our community project to muck out the pond so we could convert it into a rain garden on project day.

That Friday, more than 100 volunteers—including our fellow students, parents, and teachers plus community helpers from Hands On Nashville, Cumberland River Compact, SoundForest, Nashville Tools For Schools, HCA, Teach For America, and LEAD alumni—helped us turn our courtyard into a beautiful place full of rain gardens, new benches, and a mulch instead of mud pathway.

My friends and I spent the last month of school enjoying the courtyard, eating lunch outside, and spending time there for clubs after school. While we prepared for summer and to move on to high school, we worked with Ms. Parker to continue pulling in others from Cameron to help keep up the courtyard. We are thrilled to return to the courtyard on Make A Difference Day even now that we are spread out across the city and beyond at different high schools.

As a LEAD High School freshman now, I still get to visit the courtyard every day, but my friends who attend schools like Glencliff High School and even Dickson County High School have only heard about it through photos and updates. I can’t wait to lead volunteers with them again.

I wish kids my age could all have the opportunity to stretch out their voices through taking part in a community worldwide program like we did in goLEAD. I want older kids to take it to the next level and teach those younger than them how to do the same.

Angel  is a ninth grade student at LEAD Academy High School. She was among the group of 20 student leaders in the Cameron eighth grade class who planned and executed an extensive volunteer project with fellow students, Hands On Nashville, HCA, Teach For America and other community partners to revive the Cameron courtyard during the 2014-2015 school year.

Meditation as a Practice in the Classroom

September 30th, 2015

My colleague, Jacquie, shared with me that at her school, a fellow teacher daily starts his class off with a slower pace. As students enter, calm music is playing. He tells the class to simply breathe for one minute, eyes closed or not. Students are then invited to journal for three minutes on whatever is standing in the way of their connecting with class. (It’s good old-fashion brain dump.) If there is still time left before diving into class, then two minutes are dedicated for students to share with a partner or in a group.


Peter’s practice is brilliant for various reasons.


  1. He creates a bridge into an emotional safe space and invites youth to be actively present in class, present to relationships in the now. Basically he honors the fact that they may have things swirling in their heads that needs to be dealt with before they can move forward.
  2. He is introducing a form of meditative practice that they can use throughout their lives that will help them learn to control their own emotions, deal with them and restore balance. Breathing techniques and brain dumps are both great ways to slow down storming thoughts and return to a calm center.



Meditation is an increasing practice that youth workers are using not only to feed into brain development but to help with social-emotional balance and learning to control emotions. Once associated only with Eastern religions, many diverse people are now realizing the power of meditation is in the act of slowing down, regulating breathing and calming crazy, out-of-control thoughts. A practice we can all benefit from!


Do you use any form of silence, focused attention on a positive thought or breathing, or journaling in your program? If you have a story of how mediation has helped your youth, share it with us!

Enhancing the Brain through Meditation

September 23rd, 2015

One of the most fascinating books I read on brain development was written by Andrew Newberg, MD, and Mark Robert Waldman, authors of How God Changes Your Brain: Breakthrough Findings from a Leading Neuroscientist. I’d recommend their book to anyone interested in learning more about how the brain works and the impact that meditation has on the brain.


The impact of meditation on the brain was the happy jewel I found in their well-written, easy-to-read book. Consider their findings:


Newberg and Waldman’s research proves that meditation can help change brain pathways and enhance brain functions. In one of the researchers’ groups, participants who meditated only 12 minutes a day for 8 weeks showed improvements in cognitive skills. They were able to alter the normal function of their brains. The group was specifically focused on memory recall, concentration, and verbal fluency. These results indicate that the practice of meditation is worth sharing with young people, who can benefit from strategies for relaxation, focus, memory retention, and learning to control emotions in times of conflict. Newberg and Waldman shared that research supports the use of meditation techniques with youth to improve academic performance through “decreased test anxiety, nervousness, self-doubt, and concentration loss,” as well as impacting “absenteeism, school rule infractions, and suspension days.” And, as can be expected, youth reported an increased sense of well-being and in one study even showed improvement in spatial memory.


Want to learn more about meditation? Our book, Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms, The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth, offers tips and supportive video clips to back-up this useful youth development and brain development strategy.



Brain Enhancers and Creating an Environment for Learning

September 16th, 2015

As we wrote our book Groups and Troops, one of our priorities was to take research chunks that match well with the idea of positive youth development and connect the research to ideas adults working with youth can use in their classrooms and programs. One of our research sources was John Medina’s work on the 12 Brain Rules (www. ). Medina offers key insights into what the brain needs to be healthy. We took those rules and applied them to the youth world.


Assess your work with youth: Do you use movement as a method for teaching content? Offer challenge or opportunities for them to explore new things? Do you focus their attention and give them opportunities to repeat what they’ve learned to help engage short-term and eventually long-term memory? Do you keep the stress down?


We offer practical strategies for these brain enhancers – and others from other researchers in the field – in the book. Consider this visual of what it looks like to create a welcoming environment for the brain:


Fourth-grade teacher Linda Tupper of Columbia, Tennessee, is deliberate when it comes to preparing her youth for standardized testing. She knows that her students will be sitting for a great length of time and need all the brain support they can get. While she can’t control the length of time they have to spend taking the tests each day, she does what she can to boost brainpower and help them recover as quickly as they can. She focuses on creating a supportive environment before, during, between, and after test taking. She has water and healthy snacks on hand, plays music, leads planned exercise breaks, and has puzzles and coloring pages set up around the room. Linda knows how important healthy development is, and over the years her youth have earned some of the highest standardized scores in the school.


How much attention do you pay to the environment you create for your youth?


Little Eyes See Everything

September 9th, 2015

We laughed as Heather shared what she had learned about herself from her nine month old daughter. Evidently, Heather says “mmm” after she drinks something. One day, Lilly said “mmm” along with her after Heather pulled the cup away from her mouth. Lilly next mimicked her mom when pulled away from breast feeding and said “mmm.”


This cute, funny moment was such a vivid reminder that kids are watching us at every moment – even as young as nine months! Yikes!


If that doesn’t send a clear message that we need to be aware of our words, actions and behaviors, then I don’t know what will convince us of the importance of our role modeling.


As Ann and I were writing Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms, The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth, we talked a lot about the importance of being the caring adult and creating spaces where youth can thrive. We challenge readers to look at their own attitudes, where they might fall a little short of their own expectations and where they shine. And, we provided stories and tips for really connecting and engaging with youth on a deeper level beyond simply knowing names and smiling at them.


As Lilly’s actions remind us all, they are watching and paying attention. We may not always think that’s the case, but it’s true. They are watching and they want to see that we really care about them, who they are and what’s important to them.


The question simply is: are we up to it? Are we living as caring adults and being the role models they’ll be proud to say they knew? The ones they knew loved them and believed in them? Or are they simply passing through our space without us alertly making the most of our time with them?


If you want to learn more about increasing your impact with youth and ideas on how to expect and bring out the best within them, then consider getting our book. It’s chock full of ideas for working with youth from the viewpoint of finding and building on their strengths.

Kids are Just Kids – A Lens for Looking at our Different Abilities

September 2nd, 2015

Recently I was asked by two different groups to research strategies for working with youth who have learning differences. As I sat for coffee with a counselor friend, I was curious to hear what she would say – if she had strategies she recommended that was different from what I would suggest. She didn’t. In fact, she echoed much of what Ann and I wrote about in Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.


Since I encountered two different groups (within a week’s time) who wanted the same thing, I thought I’d share an excerpt from our book here for reflection:


No matter what the issue or difficulty, they don’t want to be treated or seen as different. A child with a mental illness is just a child. A child with a physical challenge is just a child. A child with a learning difference is just a child. They have special needs (we all do!), but they just want to be seen as normal people. Keep them in mind first: see them, not the issues they are struggling with. Don’t let a person be defined by their circumstances or their challenges. Look past the exterior casing to focus on the heart, the core of who each person really is.


My friend, in our chat, unprompted, reiterated the importance of seeing them as kids and treating them as kids – no different than anyone else because “different” is what they’re very aware of and experience from peers. The gift of being able to be a person is the greatest gift we can give them.

6 Tips for Dealing with Conflict with Youth

August 26th, 2015

The book Building Developmental Assets in School Communities offers tips for dealing with conflict one-on-one with the instigator to help influence behaviors in a positive way. We adapted and expanded a few of their ideas included below:

  1. Use their name. This communicates respect and attention.
  2. Identify the inappropriate behavior. Stick with facts in this reflection—no shaming or expressing your own feelings. Don’t, for instance, say you were disappointed or worried, which only tends to add to the negativity.
  3. Indicate that the behavior does not match up with how you see them. Emphasize the good and the potential that you know is within them. In The Dark Knight Rises, there’s a scene where Batman asks Cat Woman, a burglar, to help people in the city escape. She responds by asking why she should help or get involved and declares that she’s not that good of a person. He responds by saying that she is stronger than that. He lets her know that he sees something valuable within her (even though she doesn’t see it in herself). In the end, she lives up to what he believes about her. Look for the good within. Mirror it to the young person.
  4. Ask them what happened. Indicate that you understand but that what they did was inappropriate. Give them the opportunity to share and think through their actions. Reiterate what is wrong and why.
  5. Model a different way. Ask them to show you an appropriate way to respond, a better way to handle the situation. If they get stuck, ask them if they want you to model a response.
  6. Encourage them. Always close tough conversations with a word of encouragement and thanks. Thank them for listening and express your belief in them to do things differently and better next time: “I believe in you.” “I know you can be the child you want to be.” “I’ve seen you make progress in this area, and I know you’re going to grow more and more.” “I care for you, and I will walk with you as you struggle with this issue. Know that you won’t be working on this alone.”

This is an excerpt from our new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!

Cultural Diversity and Youth Power

August 19th, 2015

Outwardly, I fit the blonde, blue-eyed barbie image. And yet, I have Cherokee Indian, Irish, and Scottish blood in my background. I found that out when I was in middle school. What did it mean that my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother was full-blooded Cherokee? I read everything I could and told myself that it explained a lot about my natural inclination to liking wolves (I was in middle school – of course I made that kind of conclusion!).


Seriously, what does it mean to who I am today to have connections to three different groups of people? Fast forward to today and the increase in cultural connections – be that biological or the neighbors who make up your street or the friends your youth have on-line.


Our world is huge. Young people today have more opportunities than any other generation to reach out and interact with others around the world. Cities are changing. Neighborhoods are changing. And, our groups are changing. Various cultures offer opportunities to expand the world-view in our classrooms and programs. As adults running programs, we have to become more adept at juggling values and cultural norms.


And, young people have their own culture. They embrace the digital age and are often bi-lingual. Youth culture is also characterized by their interest in certain music, food, dress, language, and the arts.


What an opportunity to learn and grow! Ask them to teach you from their perspective and understanding. In our book, Groups, Troops, Clubs & Classrooms, The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth, we collected tips from colleagues and combined them with our own to provide ideas for guiding your work in today’s youth culture and its various identifying elements.


What is a “norm” of your family? Your generation? Your culture? How does it play out against other norms you encounter?


8 Ways to Publicly Honor Youth Leaders and Contributers

August 12th, 2015
  1. Hang pictures of youth and their achievements in your building
  2. Nominate them for awards and scholarships; even if they aren’t selected, you can announce the nomination
  3. Ask for a proclamation (recognition) from the city council/mayor’s office
  4. Submit an article for a newspaper, professional magazine, or the local TV news
  5. Give youth job titles (displays importance of roles; can use on resumes)
  6. Describe their work in the company newsletter or through a display
  7. Brag about them on social media—Twitter, Facebook, Flikr, or YouTube videos (double impact because it promotes your organization as their friends see the content)
  8. Invite them to speak on behalf of your agency at public events

These ideas are from our new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  It is full of strategies to help educators, coaches and youth workers bring out the best in young people!  Check it out and share it with someone else that loves young people!