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Classic Children’s Books

April 13th, 2015

The library is so vast, that it’s sometimes hard to know where to start looking for good books.  Check out this list of classic youth stories from my friend Mary Young:

Where the red fern grows
Wrinkle in time
Island of the blue dolphins
My side of the mtn.   The Hobbit
Chronicles of narnia
Treasure island
Swiss family Robinson
Robin hood
Black beauty
The black stallion
Treasures of the snow
Little house on the prairie
Little women.
Johnny tremain
Little men

Resources for Teaching Tolerance

April 8th, 2015

Have you seen all the cool resources you can access from Teaching Tolerance?  Here is a sampling:

Racial Profiling

Defusing School Violence

Unequal Unemployment

The Motivation for Movement (immigration)

Progressive City Planners

Changing Demographics: What Can We Do to Promote Respect?

Freedom’s Main Line (segregation in KY)

You can find a full list of their resources at

6 Ways to Challenge Youth to Become Social Entrepreneurs

March 25th, 2015

If your young people are fired up about tackling issues and have ideas for wide-scale change, they may be social entrepreneurs in the making. Do your young people seem to be change agents at heart? Do they seek to invent new approaches and improve systems? “That’s what social entrepreneurs do,” says Bill Drayton, CEO of Ashoka. “Social entrepreneurs are not content just to give a fish or teach how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry.” Social entrepreneurs often weave philanthropy and business with ideas that unstick systems or impact communities in big, powerful, society-changing ways.

Strategic Moves

  1. Invite your youth to take a social entrepreneur quiz or practice building a socially conscious business at The New Heroes, “Are You the Next New Hero?”
  2. Read stories of other young      social entrepreneurs in this article: “Meet the 25 Most Influential People      in the World!” Huffington Post.      June 18, 2012.
  3. As a group, join others in      solving big challenges at
  4. Teach a course on social      entrepreneurship. Check out the free curriculum at The New Heroes,      “Classroom Materials,”
  5. Find funding for creative      projects at Kickstarter,
  6. Be inspired by other ideas      at and at


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!

Take a Stand – A Service-Learning Activity for Exploring Interests

March 18th, 2015

What issues is your group willing to take a stand on? Poll your group by having each person vote with their feet by simultaneously moving to a corner of the room that represents their answer.  Group members will be able to look around the group to see the kinds of social issues each person is interested in.  This will help you gauge the interests of the group, so you can know what kinds of service or advocacy projects to explore together.

  • You have extra money to donate to a cause. Will you give it to help the homeless or to address environmental issues?
  • You have a day to volunteer. Will you help the animal shelter or a nursing home?
  •  You are going to answer the phone to accept donations for a service group. Would you rather answer the phone for raising money for world hunger or for saving the whales?
  •  You get to choose how the city will spend its financial and physical resources. Will you vote to help disaster relief victims or senior citizens?
  •  You’ve been chosen to speak to a group of lawmakers. Would you rather speak about childhood obesity or violence in schools?

Ask the group for other causes that mean something to them and why they’re important to them. Brainstorm ways youth can help. Then get busy! Pick an issue you want to tackle or a project idea that everyone agrees on and get to work.

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!

Finding Great Books for Kids

March 16th, 2015

“Find out what the kid really loves, and help them find a book, magazine, or any kind of text about that love. Without judgment. The subject can be sharks, volcanoes, bodily functions, the Guinness Book of World Records, fighting ships of World War II. And they can read about this love for as long as they want.” – Jon Scieszka

‘Evidence-based’ only proves it worked in the past

March 11th, 2015

reposted from Anderson Williams

But, we work in the present, and are preparing young people for the future.   Now, don’t get me wrong, this does not necessarily mean evidence-based practices don’t work in the present, or won’t work in the future. They very well may. Many do. But, let’s just be clear on what the term “evidence-based” actually means.   Evidence is inherently backward looking. And, acknowledging this, it seems worthwhile to take pause and reconsider our obsession in education and youth work with an evidence base, and wonder if it may be part of our problem when it comes to reform.   The technology-driven pace of social, cultural, economic, and educational change is only picking up speed. What we did yesterday is increasingly distant from what we will be doing tomorrow. Yesterday’s evidence-based input is further than ever from tomorrow’s desired outcome.   Evidence in moderation is a good thing; it’s a foundation; a starting point. Evidence-based approaches are conservative, and that’s good in the right place and time, and with the right dosage. It’s important to remember, however, that evidence-based models started as innovations somewhere along the line. They were generated because someone wasn’t acting based on evidence!   Unfortunately, moderation is dead in the age of high stakes testing and related attempts at accountability. Our current use of “evidence-based” as the pervasive and singularly accepted criteria for action stifles creativity and innovation. It slowly but surely stops progress. And, in a broader context of rapid change, it encourages education and youth work to be less reflective, less confident in taking risks, and makes us less resilient when we are presented with the changing realities of our young people.   As we cozy up in the comfort and security of evidence, we find ourselves securely on a path to irrelevance.     But, irrelevance is only part of the problem. The obsession with evidence-based models can be more insidious too. It’s one thing to unwittingly stifle innovation and slowly become irrelevant in an honest (if uncreative) effort to generate quality work, establish standards, etc. It’s another thing altogether to use evidence-based as an active excuse. Too many of us use our “evidence” to let ourselves off the hook even as we fail to deliver solid outcomes.   “Hey, our curriculum (or program) was good. It was evidence-based. I don’t know why the kids are still failing (or aren’t showing up). I did my part. I’ve got the evidence to prove it!”   Our evidence-based input gets confused as our outcome.   So, as we continue to invest in evidence-based models and standards, let’s make sure we also keep our senses attuned to the present and our eyes up and looking at the future. Let’s invest in building and enhancing evidence-based models and not just relying on them.
For more great posts from Anderson and his colleagues, visit the Zeumo blog.

6 Ways to Remember Names

February 25th, 2015

To build relationships, you have to learn the names of the youth in your program.  Knowing a person’s name is a way of showing honor and respect. When someone tells you her name, repeat it and ask if you are saying it correctly. If you don’t get it right the first time, practice until you can say it correctly. Then focus on remembering that name, so you can call the person by name in the future. Taking time to know names communicates value and appreciation.

Here are some simple strategies for remembering names:

  1. Repeat names as soon as people introduce themselves. If one person says, “My name is Jim,” then respond with, “It’s so nice to meet you, Jim.” Make a point to use his name again in the conversation. Repetition will cement the name in your memory quickly. (Remember what brain science tells us—you have to repeat to remember!)
  2. Keep a list of young people you interact with on a regular basis. We like to keep this list in a calendar or journal. Sometimes we include the phonetic pronunciation of their names (Shanella = shane + ella) or a phrase to remind us who they are (tall red-headed boy who looks like cousin Jake).
  3. Take pictures of young people in your program, and let them autograph their pictures. Seeing images with the names will help you remember.
  4. Link their names with someone else you know or an object that will help you remember the association. Perhaps Angelica reminds you of an angel. Or George makes you remember your grandpa George.
  5. Combine their names with random facts. You could also ask anything like the following: What color can’t you live without? What decade would you want to live in? What kind of car do you want to drive? The more off the wall less frequently asked question the better. The approach keeps youth on their toes, makes them pause, adds in an element of novelty, and helps everyone in the group remember names. Jake Lawrence asks his youth to share their names and what shampoo they use. Random facts create a lighthearted tone and set people at ease. Believe it or not, these crazy facts will also help you remember their names.
  6. Mix movement with the sharing of names. Here’s another brain booster from Jake to help your entire group retain names. The first person says, “I’m Weston, and I like to move.” Weston then does some sort of move or dance. Everyone else says, “Hey, Weston!” and they copy his move. Continue on to the next person.

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!

One Strategy that Will Completely Change the Way you work with Young People

February 18th, 2015

Wanna change the way you work with young people?  Adopt what our counseling friend Jake calls “unconditional positive regard”, and determine that you will maintain that attitude no matter what.

Unconditional positive regard is a belief that no matter what happens or what is seen, this person (the youth in front of you) is good even if he or she has done terrible things. Even if the good isn’t obvious. Everyone has the capacity to do good. Your job is to believe that and offer encouragement to your group to cultivate it.

This is the attitude you commit to before you meet any child, during your interactions with your youth, and even after those trying moments when they walk away and you want to start grumbling and generalizing about “kids today.” It’s okay to get the frustrations out of your system  but always return to center: to a belief and hope in unconditional positive regard. This attitude will bring hope to your group and strengthen your efforts to see and cultivate the best in others.

How would this change the environment in your home, classroom or program?

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!

Moving More = Learning Lots

February 16th, 2015

As P.E. gets cut from more and more school days, teachers and afterschool care providers are searching for more ways to encouragement movement with youth.  We love to move and play, so we’ve collected lots of activities to share in this workshop.

Title: Do a Body Good: Moving More = Learning Lots

Description: The latest brain research has a lot to say about the importance of movement. This workshop illustrates how to incorporate movement through relationship building, concept reviews, getting feedback, reflection and energizers/refreshers – all in 5-10 minute blasts. We will give you time to practice creating and leading movement activities.

Audience: youth workers and educators

Time: 1 ½ – 2 hours

Schedule by contacting us at 615-262-9676 or


Contact us if you want to bring this workshop to your organization – 615-262-9676 or


5 Ways to Be Prepared as an Educator, Youth Worker or Coach

February 11th, 2015

Excerpted from Groups Troops, Clubs and Classrooms by Ragsdale and Saylor

Being prepared for a group means having a plan A, B, C, and sometimes D—at least in your head. For example, you had planned activities for 45 youth but only 10 show up. You were supposed to have a guest speaker, but she suddenly cancels. Now what? How can you make the time together meaningful and worthwhile? Or, you planned for two hours of programming or instruction, but circumstances beyond your control interrupt your plan. Now you now have 45 minutes to get across a meaty subject like dealing with bullies, learning the secrets of closing a debate, reducing fractions, or planning a service project. What do you do?

Here’s what we’ve learned:

Try not to take yourself too seriously. Relax and be willing to adapt your plan. Keep the flow moving so that the time you do have with them is meaningful.

Have more games, activities, examples, and ideas than you will use. If you are over-prepared, you will have the flexibility to add, delete, or move content as needed.

Have a variety of ways to approach your content. When 10 people show up instead of 45 (or vice versa), you can adapt your methods. This strategy also means being able to present content in different ways to accommodate various learning styles. Consider the multiple intelligences in your group when developing each lesson plan. Challenge yourself to use at least two or three styles so that you are engaging as many youth as you can in what you do. Mix it up. Present information visually, verbally, with movement, and so forth.

Have flex in the content. Sometimes you come in ready to get across a key message or explore a subject only to discover that your group isn’t where you thought they were. Let go. Meet them where they are. That might mean taking a deeper dive into your topic or introducing the idea and slowly beginning to work on it. Sometimes you have to swim in the shallow end of the discovery pool.

Be willing to let go. On occasion, you might have to totally adjust your plan. Be present enough to know when forging ahead with an agenda is useless because the young people in your classroom or group are not “there.” And if they aren’t there, they aren’t going to receive your message, and they won’t see you as the person who is truly present for them. Have a plan but be ready to adjust to the circumstances. Be flexible and adaptable, read the group, and adjust as necessary. It’s an art!

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!

Engaging Youth: Finding and Connecting with a Sense of Purpose

February 9th, 2015

This has been one of our most popular workshops over the last few years.  Young people yearn to live a life full of meaning and purpose.  Caring adults are critical in helping youth discover and achiever their purpose.  This highly engaging workshop will teach youth workers and educators tricks and tips for helping youth find their sparks and cast a vision for their lives.

title: Engaging Youth: Finding and Connecting with a Sense of Purpose

description: The latest research on “sparks” shows that when youth know and can name their sparks, then good things happen – in schools, in themselves and for their lives. This lively session will educate participants on sparks; how sparks connect to developing a sense of purpose; and ideas for cultivating them in youth. Experience and learn for yourselves some fun, interactive venues for youth to identify strengths, resources and goals for themselves that they can carry with them into adulthood.

time: 2 hours

Audience:  youth workers, educators, parents

Contact us if you want to bring this workshop to your organization – 615-262-9676 or


James Vollbracht on Youth Development and Education

February 4th, 2015

James Vollbracht, author of Stopping at Every Lemonade Stand: How to Create a Culture That Cares for Kids, gives this wonderful advice:

We must remember that children are very new to the world and don’t have the sense of context that we do. Everything they see, hear and experience becomes a part of them. We are stewards of this most important resource, to which we have unquestionable responsibilities: to shield them from harmful and inappropriate experiences, to provide them with opportunities and invitations to participate in the life of the community that will allow their innate gifts to unfold naturally, to guide them through important rites of passage, and to love them unconditionally.

Growing Kids through Literacy, Creativity and Play

February 2nd, 2015

Character is an ageless hot topic for educators, parents and youth workers.  We all want to nurture character development in children, but sometimes we don’t know where to start.  And we don’t know how to find time amidst standards, tests and group dynamics.  We worked with educational experts to develop some creative strategies to build character.

Title: Growing Kids through Literacy, Creativity and Play

Description:  How do you teach character to children? You play games; you act out storybooks; you let them paint. And while they’re having fun, you weave in conversations about positive values. Explore and learn creative and playful methods for teaching character and literacy from the book, Building Character from the Start and from the guidebook “Tales Told Twice.” Collect ideas and learn how to get a free copy of the Tales Told Twice! (adaptable for grades k-12)

Audience:  k-12 educators and youth workers

Time: 2-3 hours

Schedule: 615-262-9676 or

Play with Purpose Workshop!

January 26th, 2015

Love the idea of play with purpose, but want to know more?  Check out this wildly popular workshop:

Title: Great Group Games: Building Relationships and Teams

Description: Learn games to build solid relationships and create a safe space that invites youth to play and learn! Based on the best-selling book Great Group Games, each game connects to group development stages and back to the assets. Participants will learn how to “play with purpose” having fun AND implementing best practices at the same time.

Audience: advisory groups, clubs/teams, classrooms

Time:  2 hours

Schedule by contacting us at 615-262-9676 or

Connect Well with Youth

January 19th, 2015

You’ve seen adults that know how to really connect with young people – engaging their hearts and minds in such a natural, yet powerful way.  But many well-intentioned youth professionals and educators struggle (if they are honest) with connecting with you on a transparent, authentic and rich level.  We have a workshop to help adults build this skill set:

Title: Connect with Them

Description: To create an environment of trust and support where youth can thrive, you have to take time to connect with them. This workshop will give you practical ideas to welcome youth, check in, learn names and develop common ground – all critical pieces for helping youth learn and thrive. The two hours is packed with activities and strategies to enhance your connection with youth.

Time: 2 hours

Schedule:  615-262-9676 or