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Developing a Sense of Community

February 24th, 2014

world star people










I’ve had several different conversations about building community this month, so I thought I’d share six steps to building community.  These steps work with youth and adults. They work in schools, community organizations, churches, and businesses.  It’s a common sense structure for building groups that know one another, care for one another, and work together well.

STAGE 1: STARTING OFF RIGHT Every group has a beginning. How they begin is important. Starting a group off right can save you from having to go back later to do damage control or try to re-establish connections that didn’t take the first time.

STAGE 2: BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS Relationship building is on-going. Natural changes within group dynamics can impact group bonding. This calls for attention and care to be given to intentionally engaging, energizing and strengthening group identity on an on-going basis.

STAGE 3: BECOMING A TEAM With time, groups evolve from many individuals into a cohesive unit. This happens as friendships develop and trust takes root. Groups need to discover and develop their team identity through team builders that require trust, cooperation, communication and working together.

STAGE 4: DEEPENING TRUST Deepening trust is vital to the health and cultivation of successful teams. Thriving teams must stretch beyond their comfort zones and dare positive risks, both emotionally and physically. The rewards are self-discovery, confidence, group cohesiveness, confidence in voicing opinions and achieving goals.

STAGE 5: CHALLENGING THE TEAM With established trust comes the ability to tackle new risks, further develop leadership skills, practice critical thinking and decision-making skills and resolve conflicts. Teams are put to the test through challenging, stress-induced activities that call for various leadership strengths and styles.

STAGE 6: AFFIRMING GROWTH & CELEBRATING SUCCESSES Transitions offer opportunities to reinforce established bonds, recall important moments, group experiences, learning and growth. They also provide a time to celebrate talents, time together, successes and positive group identity. Marking these moments lets the group experience real affirmation and accomplishment.

We originally shared these stages in our book, Great Group Games: 175 Boredom-Busting, Zero-Prep Team Builders for All Ages, published by Search Institute in Minneapolis.  The book contains instructions and reflection questions for 175 games that correlate with these 6 stages.  The games will help usher your team or group through all 6 stages of group development – and you’ll have a lot of fun playing with purpose!

Taking time to build this kind of community will transform the attitude and personality of your group!  I’d love to hear what you have done to build strong community in the places you live, work, and play.



Crossword Connections

February 3rd, 2014

A stage one teambuilder from the Great Group Games book

Time: 15-20 minutes

Supplies: paper and pen for each participant

Give each person a piece of paper and ask them to write their full name in large letters across the middle of the page. Then ask everyone to mingle for 5-7 minutes, searching for “connections” (commonalities) they have with one another. When you discover a “connection,” write your new friend’s first name in crossword style to connect with your name, then record your specific commonality on the back of the page. See how many connections everyone can find in a short amount of time.

Going Deeper:
§ How can we be so different, yet so much alike?
§ How does finding commonalities affect your comfort level in a group?
§ Do we take the time to find commonalities in everyday life? Why or why not?
§ Does finding commonalities make it easier to start conversations? Build relationships?

Assets: interpersonal competence, safety, positive peer influence, support


Repost: Time for Cards? Try Sevens

January 29th, 2014

I just learned a new card game from Jennifer at 6ftmama. It’s called Sevens, and I think I played it once years ago. I look forward to teaching our kids! Check out verbal and pictorial directions at the link here. Happy card playing!



Sticky I.D.

January 29th, 2014

A game from the Great Group Games book

Time: 20 minutes

Supplies: a post-it note and pen for each participant

Give each participant a post-it note and a pen. Ask them to draw 2 lines (making a “t”) that split their paper into four squares. Have them fill in the blanks for the following questions:

*Something you liked doing when you were younger that you still enjoy
*One of your favorite things to do outside
*Something you’d like to learn more about
*A place you’d love to visit one day

When everyone is done, ask people to partner up with someone they don’t know very well, share names if they don’t know them and share the answers to their questions. When you blow the whistle, ask participants to find a new partner. After rotating through 5-6 partners, ask the group to form a circle and share some of the things they learned about one another.

Going Deeper:
* While talking with others, did you remember any fun activities that you especially enjoy?
* What kinds of topics were other people interested in learning more about?
* Did you discover anything that you had in common with someone else in the group?

Assets: Support, commitment to learning, safety, interpersonal competence, constructive use of time


Repost: Artic Bubbles

January 17th, 2014


Have you ever frozen bubbles?  Have you caught any of your frozen bubbles on camera?  Check out this post to learn how to freeze bubbles and take great pictures of the bubbles:



The Animal Game

January 15th, 2014

Each participant chooses an animal and a movement to match the animal. Everyone stands in a circle and you go around, the first time just showing your movement to the group. Then you pick one person to start. They do their movement then someone else’s movement. The person whose movement they did then does their own movement and a different person’s movement. If a person takes too long to do someone else’s movement or they do the movement of someone who is already out then they are out. Eventually you get down to two people and you have to wait for someone to mess up. The whole game is played without saying anything (but you can remind someone they’re out). (Directions shared by Ashley, a young person from Newberry, Michigan)

Going Deeper:
*How did you choose an animal?
*How did you remember other people’s animals?
*What strategies helped you be successful in this game?
*Can you use any of these strategies to help with other experiences in life (sports, school, homework, hobbies, relationships…)?

The asset connection:
Creative activities * Achievement motivation * Homework * Responsibility * Planning and decision making * Interpersonal competence *

If YOU have a favorite game to share, please send it to us at ann(at)TheAssetEdge(dot)net. We’d love to share it with other folks around the world!


Guest Post: Resolve to Make Family-Focused Volunteer Efforts in 2014

January 8th, 2014



I’m featured as a guest blogger at ParentFurther this week.  They asked me to write an article about practical ways for families to start volunteering together.  You can read the article here:

Resolve to Make Family-Focused Volunteer Efforts in 2014



Q/A from a Reader – Common Ground and Candy!

January 8th, 2014

Question: I’m planning a luncheon and we need a fun game idea for table groups. There will be 60 people – 10 tables with 6 chairs at each table. Anyway, are you able to share any ideas with us?

My answer:
I think the Common Ground game would work really well for your luncheon. Here are the details:

Ask each table group to compile a list of as many things as their whole group has in common as possible. Give them 3-4 minutes to make their lists on a piece of paper. Then ask each group to submit outloud one answer for each of the following questions. Award mini prizes for the group with:
• the most commonalities
• the funniest commonality
• the most creative commonality
• the ‘deepest’ commonality
• the most adventuresome commonality
• the most memorable commonality
• whatever else you think of…

If you would like to have a conversation started sitting on the tables when people arrive, you could let table groups do the Candy Quiz together. It’s a good way to get people to start talking, by working on a common project.

1. A famous swashbuckling trio of old ___________________
2. Elmer Fudd’s sleight of hand or magical maneuvers ______________
3. Places of interring enemies of those who tend & drive cattle and who are usually mounted on domesticated, large, solid-hoofed, herbivorous mammals ____________________
4. A broad, luminous, irregular band of astral lights that encompasses the stellar sphere ___________________________
5. Crimson-colored libidinous cravings ________________________
6. A celestial body fourth in order from the sun, conspicuous for the redness of its light _______________________
7. Multiple expressions of mirth, joy, or scorn in a covert or suppressed manner ____________________
8. An idiom, used here singularly, employed to describe one whose dexterous deficiency denies proficiency in getting a grip on goods _______________
9. Possessive clone alphabetical characters ______________________
10. Childhood name of a former renowned baseball player whose strike-out record is recondite __________________
11. Celebrated street in the Big Apple _______________
12. The 24-hour part of the week set aside to compensate for labor and toil ______________________
13. Subordinate herbs or seasonings _______________________
14. Lactic flops _______________________
15. The jubilant sensation of an ellipsoidal and edible nut ______________
16. Label on the body bag containing the remains collected after a cat named “Reese” was run over by a mower _______________
17. Dissonant confectionery mixture of dulcet and piquant seasonings ____________
18. To rotate several members of the cylindrical-shaped component of the vowel family _______________
19. Big orb in the sky meets round sweet culinary dish of apple or cherry _____________

(You can email us if you’d like a copy of the answers)

These are both games from Great Group Games – you can find 173 more fun group games with detailed instructions in the book.


Book Review: Hot Buttons by Nicole O’Dell

December 16th, 2013

This week I have been reviewing two books by Nicole O’Dell. They are part of the hot buttons series- one is on bullying, and one is on image. Those are good resources for parents counselors and youth workers. They help to define the issues and explain the whys and hows. They give adults ideas for how to (and not to) respond to trouble areas. You have one chapter advising how to address the issue from a spiritual nature as well. But my favorite part of the book is a set of scenarios that she has written to help teens and tweens explore the various areas. They are very well done,  and I think they will lead to great conversations with young people.  These books will aid any adult who wants to understand and support youth.  I receive these book as a gift from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.


Giving joy is as easy as 1-2-3

December 13th, 2013

Singing carols at a nursing home with a group of 15 kids? That’s 15 toys or games that Hasbro will donate. Hosting a school-wide food drive with 450 students? That’s 450 toys or games donated!

This holiday season, generationOn is asking kids and teens to Be a Joy Maker by turning acts of service into donations of toys and games for kids in need. From now through December 20, for every action a kid or teen takes to help others, Hasbro will donate a toy or game to Toys for Tots, up to 1 million dollars’ worth.


Help us get over 100,000 toys to kids in need this season. It’s as easy as 1-2-3! 

1.         Go to

2.         Pledge your service using the form.

3.         Click Give Joy to submit.

Now through December 20 at


Children Share Joy and Toys

December 12th, 2013

21 kids and 13 adults from the Pleasant View Kids Care club met at 24 Church for a JoyMaker project last week. They collected 30 coats and 55 scarves, gloves and hats to donate to needy children and families. They made 22 door decorations for Ronald McDonald House residents. They decorated gift bags and wrapped 100 toys that Hasbro donated for our Angel Tree children. And they celebrated by enjoying Christmas cocoa together.

The event was part of the national Joy Maker campaign led by generationOn, a global youth service organization that inspires kids to make their mark on the world. For each action a child or teen takes to help others as part of the Joy Maker initiative, Hasbro will donate a toy or game to Toys for Tots — up to 1 million dollars’ worth!

“We are very proud of these young people. We know the youth of today have the power, enthusiasm and creativity to make their mark on issues important to their community and beyond,” said Kathy Saulitis, senior vice president at generationOn. “We also wish to thank our partner, Hasbro, for their continued support and generous matching toy contributions to Toys for Tots.”

For four years, generationOn and Hasbro have partnered on the Joy Maker campaign– inspiring more than 100,000 acts of service by kids and teens each holiday season. Kids and teens interested in being a Joy Maker in 2013 can still get involved through December 20. The website offers a range of project ideas as well as an easy way to download a holiday card and send it to a child needing joy this holiday season.


Favorite Books by Kids and Friends

December 10th, 2013

Truman the dragon is a good friend of kids that read Kidsville News.  Check out his favorite holiday book here.


Three ways to turn a movie into learning experience

December 4th, 2013

Curling up on the couch and watching a movie can be more than a great way for kids to relax; it can also be a terrific learning activity.  By making a few requirements for before, during and after a movie, you may be able to help your kid learn from each film they watch.  Whether it is reading an original book beforehand or changing a DVD’s language settings there are a number of techniques that can turn a movie into a learning experience.  Here are three ways you can make each movie an opportunity for your child to learn.

  1.  Read the book first (if possible)

From Harry Potter to The Hunger Games, many of the most popular movies are adaptations of books.  If the movie your child wants to watch is one of these, you may want to require that they read the book first.  Not only can this be a great opportunity to encourage them to read, but if they think they will like the movie, there is a good chance they will enjoy the book too.  If the movie doesn’t come from a book, you can usually find a related one for them to read first.  For example, if they are interested in a dinosaur movie, you can require them to read a short dinosaur book.   For younger kids, an easy way to break up the books into manageable pieces is to have them read a set amount each night.  You can get them into the habit of brushing their teeth, changing into a pair of fun kid’s pajamas and reading for 20 minutes, 5 pages, or at whichever rate you determine is right for them.  Older kids may be able to simply read at their own pace.

  1. Take advantage of the language and subtitle options in DVDs

Most DVDs and Blu-rays allow you to choose from a variety of language tracks and subtitle options.  These can be great ways to encourage your child to learn a new language and work on their reading skills at the same time.  If it is their first time watching a movie, you may want to let them watch it in English, but if they are just re-watching something, change the language to one that they are interested in learning.  If they are just getting started with the language, leaving English subtitles on may help them learn while practicing their reading.  As they get better, you can turn the subtitles into the same language as the audio and may be able to learn a language just by watching movies!

  1. Make a short assignment or have a discussion after each movie

Watching movies with your child isn’t just a great way to bond.  It can also help you find new ways for them to learn and analyze the movie.  For example, after watching a sci-fi movie, you and your child could do some research or experiments together to find out what kind of technologies may work in real life and which probably would not.  For other films, you can have discussions about the movies themes, messages, and symbolism.  If you don’t have time to watch a movie with your kid, try searching online to see if there are study questions for the movie.  You could print these out and have them answer them during and after the movie.  If they read a related book beforehand, ask them what the similarities and differences were between the book and movie.  Another option is to just have them write a short summary of the movie, which may help their writing skills while also exercising their analytical abilities.

Entertainment and education don’t have to be separate.  With a few simple steps and activities you can turn any movie into an opportunity for your child to read, write, discuss and learn.  From learning new languages, to comparing and contrasting original books to movie adaptations, there is no end to the educational opportunities movies present!

This post was written by Ryan, a former teacher who has been blogging for the last year.  He likes to find new ways to make education more exciting for kids, learn about educational technology, and help his nephew find new superhero outfits from


Creating a WOW Factor in your Programming

November 8th, 2013

We’re working with an after school agency that wants to improve their programming by creating a WOW factor at their sites and training their supervisors to coach/mentor other staff.  After talking with the leadership team, we decided to lead a sparks workshop with their supervisors, which will have two goals.

  1. We will help supervisors find their sparks and learn to use their sparks to create a wow factor in programming. So if you have a supervisor that enjoys dance, how could they incorporate dance into their everyday programming with youth?  If a youth worker loves art, how could they use art to teach academic skills or social skills?  If adults are teaching/mentoring/guiding while doing things that they LOVE,  you are going to be wow-ed by their efforts.
  2. We will talk about coaching staff and young people to identify and grow their sparks.  Good supervisors must be good coaches, but they need time to practice.  If you can train youth workers to coach young people, then they will be better prepared to coach adults.  And if you help youth find and utilize their sparks, they will more likely begin to thrive and grow into healthy, contributing citizens.

Are you creating a WOW factor at your sites?  Are you teaching your supervisors to coach and mentor youth and adults around them?  Are you engaging youth in their sparks?  Wanna learn more about how to do that strategically?

Call us at 615.262.9676 or email us at – we would love to partner with you to strengthen your programming efforts!


Zinch – Resources for Kids Looking at Colleges

October 15th, 2013

Check out this cool selection of articles related to college-hunting and scholarships…


College Selection

Choosing the Right – Not Just the “Best” – Colleges Go go

How Kids Really Choose a School The Daily Beast

The Best Kept Secret in College Admission The Daily Beast


Getting In

How to Really Improve Your Admission Chances Go go

10 Costly Mistakes in College Admission

The 10 Dumbest Mistakes Applicants Always Make


Paying for College

Paying for college When You Haven’t Saved Enough

Financial Aid 101 Go go

Early Decision: College Admission’s Secret Handshake


Even More

Parents: Don’t Blow Your Kid’s Chances of College Admission

Reduce the Stress Go go

When You Should be a Helicopter Mom Admission

The Technology Revolution Changing College Admissions