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Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar® on Tour Visits A Home

November 23rd, 2016

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor has been showing up in its “tour” in after-school settings, camp, classrooms and . . . homes.

Here’s a quick review from Amazon that shares one household’s experience of Brain Boosters (the reviewer let us know that they also pinned it in Pinterest):

bb-at-home

 

 

 

You can create some quick fun moments in your home yourself!

Jar_3d

Get the jar directly from Free Spirit or online from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Click to order: http://tinyurl.com/boosters16

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar® Stops off at YMCA Camp

November 16th, 2016

During its tour it was only right that Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor, creators of Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar visit the YMCA of Middle Tennessee and see brain boosters in action in a camp setting.  Here’s what one staffer from the Brentwood YMCA had to say:

“Thanks Susan for sharing Brain Boosters with the Brentwood YMCA Day Camp. What a great ice breaker and team builder! My day camp counselors really enjoyed it. You ladies are so creative.”

Many blessings,

Tracey Jernigan

Family Services, Day Camp and Preschool Program Director

YMCA of Middle Tennessee

 

You can see and try Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar out for yourself!

Jar_3d

Get the jar directly from Free Spirit or online from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Click to order: http://tinyurl.com/boosters16

 

 

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar® on Tour for a Second Stop in Arkansas

November 9th, 2016

As Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar has made its first tour across the country engaging youth in both classroom and after-school settings, creators Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor couldn’t be more pleased with the response and look forward to seeing Brain Boosters in even more places where the activities can interact with youth groups and bring energy and fun brain development!

Here’s a review from a “tour” stop in Little Rock, Arkansas with Our House:

“The youth and adults, who facilitated the activity, preferred the 20 second challenges because they were quick and simple. In addition, the youth enjoyed the Show Me Your Moves cards because they were able to improvise and “think on their feet.”
“The instructions were simple, therefore it took very little time to explain the instructions to the youth. Please note that we tested this on youth K – 8th grade.

“The youth said the following:

  • It was fun!
  • It got us moving!
  • We had to think fast!
  • It required us to work as a team!
  • We had to use our brain
  • We were able to get some energy out

“Most of the students liked acting out the various scenarios but some youth felt extremely uncomfortable because they do not like being the center of attention. (editor’s note:  the activities do include the right to “pass”).  Our group did not like the activities that required additional time (5 – 10 minutes). We passed over all of the cards that required an extensive amount of time.

“We would recommend this to other programs – It is an easy way to get the kids moving, thinking, and working together.”

- Desirae Holmes, Our House

Jar_3d

  Get the jar directly from Free Spirit or online from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

  Click to order: http://tinyurl.com/boosters16

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar®: a Stop in Indiana

November 2nd, 2016

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor made a stop in Indiana with The Journey program (www.thejourneyonline.org).  It’s review was shared with youth workers across the state in their newsletter and Facebook page.  We hope Brain Boosters will schedule more appearances as a result of its stop here!  Thanks, Janet!

the-journey

Jar_3d

Get the jar directly from Free Spirit or online from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Click to order: http://tinyurl.com/boosters16

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar®: on Tour in Arkansas

October 26th, 2016

In its trek across the country, Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor made its way to Arkansas over the summer to engage youth and build the brain through fun, interactive ways.  Here’s what the staff from Life Skills for Youth had to say:

Our youth liked the 20-second Challenges, Show Me Your Moves and Make a Melody games the best.  Some of the favorite activities were  the music challenges and showing off their moves – making up skits.  They liked making a song to the star spangled banner.  I would say what they most liked about the activities overall was the chance they had to express themselves in front of classmates.  The activities were amusing for their peers. 

The only critique was that some students thought some of the music items could have been a bit more relatable for their age group (over 15).

What I enjoyed most, as a facilitator, was  was the engagement and humor for those who participated.  I would recommend these activities to other programs.  The activities created involvement between students and teacher.  It allowed children to work together and support their classmates.

- Gary Casey, Life Skills for Youth

Jar_3d

Get the jar directly from Free Spirit or online from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Click to order: http://tinyurl.com/boosters16

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar®: A Teacher’s Review

October 19th, 2016

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar is definitely a very worthwhile, unique find.   I have used it in my classroom in many different ways since it serves multiple purposes.  My students, primarily 5th graders, have absolutely loved the crazy challenges found on the cards.

 

This game comes with 101 small cards in a plastic jar and a die.  There are four categories: Make a Melody, Show Me Your Moves, 20-Second Challenge, and Wild Cards.  The 20- second challenges are my favorite.  These cards are great for when students need a quick break from long stretches of learning, yet I do not want to lose valuable instructional time.  Many of these cards include debates, like arguing whether texting or face-to-face conversation is more important.  Others include telling a story about a time the teller was brave, or acting out a scene from a movie.  With these cards, I usually give one to each of my six groups, and each person in the group gets to go around and do it.  Because each student only has 20 seconds, the groups get done at the same time, making it easy to resume the lesson.

 

The Make a Melody cards were my students’ favorite.  They elicited hilarious responses, such as singing a song using a cat or a dog voice (woof-woof or meow-meow), and seeing if the group could tell what it was.  The only problem with these is that when multiple groups are doing this category at once, the room gets pretty noisy! I ended up using these with the whole group, and would have one representative from each group perform them, and then they would rotate. This solution worked well.

 

Most of the Show Me Your Move cards require movement in the classroom, so they are great when I had to have indoor activity time.  Some of them include making up dance moves, completing stretches, and doing short relay races.

 

Wild Cards can be any mixture of the following, but most of them include writing and discussing.  My favorite ones are those that have students share information about themselves with each other, like their favorite hobbies.  The card also tells them to roll the die to determine how many things they share about that hobby with the group.  These really help students get along better in my classroom as they make stronger connections with each other.

 

I highly recommend choosing the cards that students receive. The one factor that I am always concerned about is time. It was very important for me to pre-select the cards, as some of them can be more time-consuming than others.  I also factor in noise level of the cards occasionally, depending on how I use the cards that day.  Selecting them matters as well because some of them need materials, like tape, balls, and various other objects.

 

Students do always have the choice to pass if they feel too uncomfortable doing the activities.  On the first day we tried the cards, I had a handful of students who did not want to participate.  However, once they realized how much fun the other students were having who did participate, everyone engaged with them from then on.

 

Ways that I utilize them in my classroom:

  •  Short brain breaks for students during long periods of work time (like essay writing)
  • Icebreakers/getting to know you activities when students are placed in new groups
  • During indoor activity time
  • As tie-breakers following review games (especially the 20-second challenges)
  • At the beginning of the year as students simply get used to group rotations
  • As bellwork when the card coincides with the lesson (debate cards, for example)

 

There are many other ways that the cards can be used, I am sure! I am very pleased with them, and I definitely plan on using them in my classroom again this year.  Overall, this is a great product, and it certainly deserves two-thumbs up!

- Bethany Riggs Weeks, Fifth Grade Language Arts & Volleyball Coach

Sycamore Middle School

 Jar_3d

 

Get the jar directly from Free Spirit or online from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Click to order: http://tinyurl.com/boosters16

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar®: On Tour with 4-H

October 12th, 2016

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor has been making its debute”tour” since its inception in April.  This summer found it making a pro-longed stop to engage youth with the 4-H program.  Here’s what one “fan” had to say about the experience:

“Brain Boosters for groups in a jar is PERFECT for my needs! In my role with the 4-H program, I work with teens who are in leadership roles. Working with teens can already be challenging so this resource is ideal! This jar is chock full of quick, meaningful and engaging activities! Yet another outstanding product from Ann and Susan!”

– Justin Crowe, Extension Specialist, 4-H Youth Development, University of Tennessee Extension

Review originally posted on his FB page:  https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=9434499&fref=nf

4-H is one of Brain Boosters for Groups biggest fans.  Thank you, 4-H!

 

Jar_3d

Get the jar directly from Free Spirit or online from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Click to order: http://tinyurl.com/boosters16

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar®: The Tour Begins

October 5th, 2016

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor has been making its debute”tour” engaging with youth across the country.  Here’s what one teacher had to say about Brain Boosters after using them in her school at end of the 2016 school year:

Brain Boosters has been a lifesaver for me this semester. My school leadership council has been having a hard time connecting with one another as well as being motivated to participate in the group. I use Brain Boosters For Groups in a Jar with them everyday now and they LOVE it! I use it at the start of our meetings to get their thinking and enthusiasm going and sometimes at the end as a fun way to close our meetings. I have also recommended it to other teachers at my school because it is so quick and easy to grab and go! We have an advisory period each week and Brain Boosters has been an awesome way to connect and have fun with our advisory groups. I love that there are over 100 activities, it is fast and easy, and most of all TONS of fun! It is so much better than having to look up different games and icebreakers online and sifting through all of them to find what I want. ALL of the activities included in the jar are age-appropriate, easy to understand, and take just a few minutes to do. They are all different, unique, and don’t take any planning. I have even used these activities at Professional Development with my co-workers. I highly recommend Brain Boosters to any one working with groups both teens and adults!”

- Ashley Parker, Cameron, A Lead Public School

See what Ashley’s class did to help promote the jar:

 

Jar_3d  Get the jar directly from Free Spirit or online from Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Click to order: http://tinyurl.com/boosters16

 

Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar® on Tour

August 24th, 2016

We asked different agencies who work with youth (both in school and after-school) to take Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar, test it out and tell us what they think.  Today’s review comes from a teacher at Cameron, a Lead Public School.

 

Brain Boosters has been a lifesaver for me this semester. My school leadership council has been having a hard time connecting with one another as well as being motivated to participate in the group. I use Brain Boosters for Groups In a Jar® with them everyday now and they LOVE it! I use it at the start of our meetings to get their thinking and enthusiasm going and sometimes at the end as a fun way to close our meetings.

 

I have also recommended it to other teachers at my school because it is so quick and easy to grab and go! We have an advisory period each week and Brain Boosters has been an awesome way to connect and have fun with our advisory groups. I love that there are over 100 activities, it is fast and easy, and most of all TONS of fun! It is so much better than having to look up different games and icebreakers online and sifting through all of them to find what I want. ALL of the activities included in the jar are age-appropriate, easy to understand, and take just a few minutes to do. They are all different, unique, and don’t take any planning. I have even used these activities at Professional Development with my co-workers. I highly recommend Brain Boosters to any one working with groups both teens and adults!

– Ashley Parker, Cameron, A Lead Public School

See a sample of Brain Boosters in action below (the leadership council assisted in the making of the video):

 

jar2

Click to order: http://tinyurl.com/boosters16

Does Talking to a Young Toddler in a Shopping Cart Count?

August 15th, 2016

We should never forget the power of being a caring adult in the lives of youth.  Every day there are opportunities to connect with children or youth.  There are youth in our personal lives, young people we bump into at the coffee shop, in the neighborhood on a walk or . . . in the grocery store line.  And, research tells us that being a caring adult matters . . . and little moments count.  Even with toddlers.

Check out this story of connection shared by MRG who responded to an on-line challenge to “reach out to someone new.”  Thanks, MRG, for letting us share your delightful encounter with others!

guest post story:

Since I left Sydney, where you can go into a supermarket and not talk to a soul, not even the checkout chick (not because you don’t want to but they practically insist you don’t!), I’ve moved to Newcastle. Here you can get a running commentary on the days events, an in detail interrogation about the weather and be requested to pass over your family’s secret recipe for lamb shanks, all in the space it takes to move your grocery items through the checkout! So, if you are expecting to move through the queue at a leading supermarket’s checkout, I suggest you make it fast track to the self checkout area, where you won’t be disturbed.

Today in light of my instructions for the reverence of connection, I found myself standing behind a fractious toddler. You know the kind I’m sure, over-tired, possibly hungry and who have reached their limits and feel the only thing they can do is cry. Not the sniffling, I’m-feeling-sorry-for-myself but the fully blown bellow of pain and cry for help, comfort and distraction because they instinctively know their mother can’t give it to them.

Now, I don’t suggest you use this kind of communication on just anyone, as it could so easily backfire and you may not have the kind of face toddlers think is amusing, but I stuck my tongue out, right at the little girl bellowing. The shock of an adult doing such a thing stopped her in her tracks, and she stared suspiciously at me, waiting to see what I’d do next. So then I pulled a face at her and motioned her to do the same. She looked to see if her mother was watching and then did one back. Game on, we continued to through facial insults at each other and she started laughing, really laughing. deep belly laughs.

At this point, the mother turned around to see what we were doing and I explained I was keeping her daughter entertained while she did the rest of her checkout. She smiled and thanked me, which was totally unnecessary because I’d had a great time and been entertained too during the waiting time. I was never allowed to make faces as a child, so I’ve been making up for all those lost opportunities since I’ve become an adult. When it was my turn, I waved goodbye to the toddler and turned back to the checkout chick.

Fun and laughter are everywhere if you slow down long enough to spy the chance to let your clown out!

How can you make a connection with a young person today?

 

Go and Do

July 20th, 2016

Reading Hershey, Here! At Saddle Up! or making an onsite visit to a similar program in your area can help your youth follow in Jesus’ footsteps by

  • becoming more aware of persons with special needs;
  • being more willing to reach out and include those teens;
  • looking for ways to serve such individuals either now or later in their lives;
  • embracing opportunities to be advocates for people on the margins.

Your youth may also wish to volunteer in such a program. What might that look like?

Talk with your local center (http://www.pathintl.org/path-intl-centers/find-center) to find what they need. At Saddle Up! youth groups (including college students on alternative spring break) have trimmed or planted trees, weeded, cut new trails and maintained established ones, removed rocks from arenas, washed horse blankets, cleaned grooming tools, painted fences, and, yes, flung poop! (That one is a favorite!) Flinging poop away from fence lines out to where the field harrow can take care of it is definitely a service! Plan for two to three hours. Be sure to contextualize the fun with the larger goals.

Some centers also welcome individual youth as volunteers. At Saddle Up! youth can be on their own at 16. If a parent volunteers with the student, he or she may start as young as 12. You can help by identifying the opportunity, encouraging the support of parents, and inviting your youth volunteer to talk with you—and also with the group—about the experience. Most centers require training and a commitment of some period of time.

The benefits of connecting your youth to these programs are great. In addition to the goals listed above, young people gain community service hours, which are often required in high school. Individuals who serve consistently have received references as they apply for jobs, especially as camp counselors. Some have also discovered not just a career choice but a calling related to issues around disabilities.

Hershey says to tell you he’s here to help!

Hershey Here!

 

—Crys Zinkiewicz, today’ s guest blogger, is the author of Hershey, Here! and is also Hershey’s Pony Pal, one of her various volunteer jobs at Saddle Up! Crys’ career was as an editor of resources for youth ministry. To contact Crys or to order the book, visit hersheyhere.org.

 

A Horse, of Course!

July 15th, 2016

Look around. In your youth group are there any teens with disabilities? More likely, not, for two reasons:

  • Only 5–7% of young persons, ages 5–17, have special needs. Although seemingly small, it’s definitely a significant number.
  • All too often a disability leads to social isolation, especially in the teenage years. Those youth become increasingly “invisible.”

In church we talk the talk about being inclusive, about accepting others; but we expect people to come to us. You are in a position to help your youth walk the walk, to reach out to young persons who are otherwise marginalized.

You have a surprising helper—horses!

Hershey Here!

Hershey, Here! is a book about Saddle Up!, a therapeutic riding center that serves children, ages 2–19, who have disabilities. Hershey is one of the horses. He’s the main storyteller, but, of course, since he is a horse he needs a little help.

Look around! In your area there may well be another “Saddle Up!” Across the world there are more than 850 similar centers. Some serve adults and some, “wounded warriors,” as well. Here’s a link to see where in your area such programs may be: http://www.pathintl.org/path-intl-centers/find-center.

You might begin a conversation with your youth group about ways to connect with persons of all ages, but especially other teens, who have special needs, by introducing the group to Hershey, Here! or to one of the programs in your area.

Many youth admire horses; some are passionate about them. Let the horses open your youth to

  • becoming more aware of persons with special needs;
  • being more willing to reach out and include those teens;
  • looking for ways to serve such individuals either now or later in their lives;
  • embracing opportunities to be advocates for people on the margins.

 

—Crys Zinkiewicz, today’s guest blogger, is the author of Hershey, Here! and is also Hershey’s Pony Pal, one of her various volunteer jobs at Saddle Up! Crys’ career was as an editor of resources for youth ministry. To contact Crys or to order the book, visit hersheyhere.org.

Helping Youth Find Their Sparks

June 20th, 2016

What are you doing when you lose all sense of time and are surprised to see how much has gone by? What gives you energy? What’s your day like when you get to DO the thing you love to do most in the world? What’s your day like when you DON’T get to do it?

This was the kick-off of our training yesterday with youth directors.  We spent time together looking for clues to our inner fire and how we can help the youth we serve find theirs.

Passion. Energy. Meaning. Purpose. Sparks. It goes by different names but it is at its root that “thing” that gets us up in the morning excited about the day. The idea of it is universal. It’s what every human being wants in life – that “thing” that makes us feel alive, is energizing and gives our lives personal meaning and value.

For many, this journey to discover their spark is done in solitude, can take a lifetime, or may be discovered by happy accident. The work of discovery is rarely done in community or out loud with intention. It’s just not normal dinnertime conversation in restaurants or homes. When we meet people, we ask “what do you do?” and conversations tend then to move into ones on the “doing” tasks of our lives. Seldom do we ask, “What do you live for? What makes your eyes light up?” or “What is your bliss?

Beginning the Sparky Journey

In our training, we focused on how to change that paradigm and to begin those crucial conversations and offer deliberate activities to provide opportunities for youth to discover their own unique inner passions.

A first step is to simply have conversations with youth about what matters to them, and to really listen to what they have to say and clarify. Ask questions. Don’t assume you know where they’re going. Let them tell you. And, make the conversation two-way. In telling YOUR story of what you love, they may find clues to follow for themselves.

Next, build in activities in your youth program that lets them think about what they love, dislike or are indifferent about trying or doing. Remember the game Take a Hike? We rewrote that old game into Sparks Walk for our upcoming book, Groups, Troops, Clubs & Teams: The Essential Handbook for Youth Leaders. When someone is in the middle of the circle, she calls out “take a hike if you love to . . . (play basketball, build engines, go to the beach, listen to others)” and everyone who loves that “thing” scrambles for a new spot in the circle and not to be the person caught in the middle.

Simple games like that provide a way to think about sparks in an interactive setting. And you, the youth director, can listen for activities mentioned and note which ones you can offer as part of the program, or talk about further with your youth.

Offer a variety of things. Pique their interests. Look for sparks to emerge.  Look for where they perk up with a sudden smile, or by straightening up or leaning forward. Watch for facial and body language that shows they are engaged.

In deliberately taking these steps, you are helping youth begin a crucial part of their journey, the journey to discover their inner fire, the “thing” that fuels them, their sparky selves. And they’ll know they’re not alone. You’re there to support them and help them in their discovery.

“Each of us has a fire in our heart for something.  It’s our goal in life to find it and to keep it lit.” – Mary Lou Retton

Add Some Challenge Into Your Group’s Day

June 17th, 2016

Our newest product, Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar® with Free Spirit, has four categories of brain influencers: music, movement, challenge (20 seconds to be exact) and the wild card category. (The wild card category lets us slip in several brain boosters such as conversations, humor, and novelty). What we love about this is that groups can have fun, play together, de-stress and do something good for their own personal well-being all at the same time.

This game is classified as a “challenge” brain booster. It is pretty easy to see why!

The game: Have everyone stand and grab 2 objects. Raise one knee and balance the objects on top of each other on your knee. See who can go the longest without lowering their knee or dropping the objects.

balance on knee

Sounds simple enough, right? Try it! These teenagers did – and 20 seconds is a lot harder than it looks.  Watch:

jar2

Click to order: http://tinyurl.com/boosters16

Excerpted from Brain Boosters for Groups In a Jar® by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor, copyright © 2016. Used with permission of Free Spirit Publishing Inc., Minneapolis, MN; 800-735-7323; www.freespirit.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

Crafting a Song . . . About Shoes

June 3rd, 2016

shoe songshoe song

In the picture:  YMCA camp counselors look at their “shoe tower” to get inspiration for the songs they would create next.

The song I created that day went like this:

Shoes to hike, shoes to swim, shoes to dance all day. 

Oh, what fun it is to run a road race all   the way – hey!

What could your group create?  A new commercial for Nike?  A tribute to New Balance?  A vote for sandals?  Try it out and let the creativity begin!

jar2

Click to order: http://tinyurl.com/boosters16

 

*Excerpted from Brain Boosters for Groups In a Jar® by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor, copyright © 2016. Used with permission of Free Spirit Publishing Inc., Minneapolis, MN; 800-735-7323; www.freespirit.com. All rights reserved.