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A Story of Youth Support

February 19th, 2016

Here’s a story shared with us by a colleague on how two youth started a simple act to support other youth:


Design for Change USA Challenge Winning Project: Cleaning Up the City

February 15th, 2016

DESIGN FOR CHANGE (USA) is a global movement of young people who are changing the world!

We are pleased to share with you one of the Design for Change USA projects from young people across the nation. We hope you will join them in BEING THE CHANGE!

Find out more about how to enter the contest here.

Check out the 2014 winners for DFC USA, the YELL Team from Boston

Design for Change USA Challenge: the 2015 Winners Take on Recycling

February 10th, 2016

DESIGN FOR CHANGE (USA) is a global movement of young people who are changing the world! One of the opportunities that DFC offers youth groups is outlined below:

  • Who: Any group of young people (K-8) with an adult mentor e.g., teacher, parent, youth leader, coach.
  • How: Teams dream up and lead social change projects in their own schools/communities using DFC curriculum and training, along with the web portal and other resources.
  • What: Teams are expected to fully implement, present and submit their social change project to DFC USA by the deadline: May 15, 2016.
  • Winners will be announced May 30, 2016.  (Learn more about contest rules here.)

We are pleased to share with you one of the Design for Change USA projects from young people across the nation. We hope you will join them in BEING THE CHANGE!

DFC USA Winners 2015

John Winthorp Elementary School, Boston

Design for Change

February 8th, 2016

We like to highlight resources of agencies that work with youth to develop leadership skills and provide opportunities for youth to give back. In this post, we want to introduce Design for Change:


DESIGN FOR CHANGE (USA) is a global initiative empowering young people to be agents of change in their own schools and communities. Through hands on training, a design thinking curriculum and robust technology platform, DFC engages young people in social change, helping them build their character, capacity and confidence. Once complete, students are required to submit a short video detailing the evolution of their project. These videos are scored and a team of young people from the USA are selected to participate in the annual DFC global conference involving students from 35+ countries.

For more information, please visit:

Check out their web for resources, lesson plans and activities to engage youth in service-learning!


Middle School Girls Tackle Disconnect

February 1st, 2016

Guest post by Christi Terefenko

When we asked a group of sixth and seventh grade girls what was important to them, their answer was, not surprisingly, their family and friends. When asked what got in the way of good relationships with their family and friends, their answer was, however, somewhat surprising: technology.

This simple question started a great conversation and initiated a very creative project with an inner-city middle school service-learning club. The girls in the club, who call themselves G-POP (short for Girls Project of Peace), attend Southwest Middle School in Reading, PA. The club is part of the Junior League of Reading’s Youth Empowered initiative designed to raise the self-esteem of youth and empower them to lead through service-learning.

This small – but mighty – group of 12 girls decided to address, in a very interesting way, the issue of societal disconnect resulting from overuse of technology. Seeing that “disconnect” was a very important issue to them, they created a day called “LOOK UP Day” along with a pledge for peers, family and friends to sign. The pledge was simple enough:

On this LOOK UP Day, I pledge to say,

I shall use technology less today

And talk to the people I do adore

And listen to people just a little bit more!

“Heads up, phones down” was the G-POP mantra and their goal was have their family and friends pledge to use technology less on LOOK UP Day so as to connect more with the people around them. In an effort explain their project and get people to sign the pledge to take part in LOOK UP Day, the girls spoke to their principal, set up informational tables for their peers in the cafeteria during lunch time, spoke on morning announcements, and even took the pledge home to their families to sign.

Look up day t-shirt back-page

After two weeks of campaigning, the middle school celebrated LOOK UP Day together with great success. In the end, this small group of girls raised awareness in a whole community about a very relevant issue and got over 350 individuals to sign their pledge. LOOK UP Day was a huge success and made a lasting impact on all those involved…especially the girls who created it. They leaned that they have the power to impact others and create change around them, perhaps the most valuable lesson of all.

Tiny Teach: Recipe #7

December 14th, 2015

This week’s final recipe (for now) from our Tiny Teach  workshop activities has a nice winter time flavor.  Though shared by another, I can speak to this one – it’s similar to one I learned from a professor in college.  Yummy!

Spice Cake

  • spice cake mix
  • can of apple pie filling
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Mix the first three ingredients.  Mix sugar and cinnamon together.  Alternately layer in a greased pan cake mix, topping, cake mix, topping . . .

Bake for 40 minutes at 325 for dark pan or at 350 for a light pan.

Tiny Teach: Recipe #6

December 7th, 2015

This week’s recipe that we learned from participants who played Tiny Teach in one of our workshops is all about being easy.


Doritos Melt

Crunch Doritos ad place on the bottom of the pan. Cover them with pre-cooked hamburger meat (1 pound). Layer more Doritos and cheese on top. Place in a 350 oven and heat until cheese is melted.

Tiny Teach: Recipe #5

November 30th, 2015

In our series on recipes shared with us from participants who played Tiny Teach in our workshops, here’s this week’s recipe, an easy one after Thanksgiving!

Scalloped Potatoes & Meat

  • 1 box of scalloped potatoes
  • cream of chicken soup (or mushroom)
  • chicken (or pork chops)

Mix the scalloped potatoes with cream of chicken soup and put in a crock-pot. Lay chicken or pork chops on top. Cook on low all day while at work.

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?

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.

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!

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?