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Words from Youth: Diversity and Acceptance

July 15th, 2015

“Respect my ideas and listen to me, even when they’re different.”

youth leader, youth development center in Nashville


Ask a young person how well you are doing in the respect department.  What about people that are different from you?  What about people with different ideas than you?  How could you be more accepting of youth around you?

Kelso’s Choice Wheel – Solving Conflicts

August 26th, 2014

According to the Kelso website, “Kelso the frog teaches students how to solve “small” problems on their own. “Small” problems include conflicts that cause “small” feelings of annoyance, embarrassment, boredom, etc. “BIG problems” always need to be taken to an adult. These are situations that are scary, dangerous, illegal, etc.”  Here’s a picture of the wheel, but check out the site to learn more.


Developing a Sense of Community

February 24th, 2014

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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.


Sneak Peak into our book – Building Character from the Start

February 10th, 2014

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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.  The children will be so busy looking for treasures or balancing on one foot that they won’t realize they’re learning conflict resolution, responsibility, and other life skills.  That’s what our book, “Building Character from the Start“, is all about.  It’s chock full of resources for teachers, parents and other caregivers that want to help build character through play with young children.

It is divided into three  easy-to-use sections:
• Creativity – Kids are prompted to finish  coloring pages with their own ideas and dreams.
• Literacy – Synopses  of nearly 100 books include follow-up questions and ideas for taking the  book’s lessons even further.
• Play – word games, community-building  games, team-building games, and more! Ideal for teachers, day-care  providers, and after-school program providers.

Get a free sneak peek into the book on this is a really cool website that lets you preview books. Click here to see more.

Power Packed 40 – the list of Developmental Assets

January 1st, 2013

* Family support * Positive family communication * Other adult relationships * Caring neighborhood * Caring school climate * Parent involvement in schooling * Community values youth * Youth as resources * Service to others * Safety * Family boundaries * School boundaries * Neighborhood boundaries * Adult role models * Positive peer influence * High expectations * Creative activities * Youth programs * Religious community * Time at home * Achievement motivation * School engagement * Homework * Bonding to school * Reading for pleasure * Caring * Equality and social justice * Integrity * Honesty * Responsibility * Restraint * Planning and decision making * Interpersonal competence * Cultural competence * Resistance skills * Peaceful conflict resolution * Personal power * Self-esteem * Sense of purpose * Positive view of personal future *

You can see more about the 40 assets at The research on these building blocks for youth is great – take time to look at it. And print a copy of the assets to post on your refigerator or desk!

Friday Playday: Practicing through Play

May 18th, 2012

“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning…  They have to play with what they know to be true in order to find out more, and then they can use what they learn in new forms of play.” – Fred Rogers, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood 

a.k.a., Play builds on learning, which builds on play – it’s an forever evolving way to learn and grow.

So if you want a child to learn friendship skills, practice with dolls and transformers.  If you want a child to practice conflict resolution or public speaking, play charades or puppets.  If you want a child to practice math, pick up an educational card game.  If you need to learn vocabulary words, use pictionary or crosswords.

We like to play.  Playing makes thoughts and facts and ideas stick.  Go play!


This post is part of our Friday Playday series, where we are sharing ideas and activities related to our 5 “play with purpose” books.  Check out the books, where you can find 750+ powerful and easy ways to help children and youth grow in character, service and leadership.  We’d also love to come to your school or organization to lead a “play with purpose” workshop – find more details here.

Play with Purpose!

Susan Ragsdale & Ann Saylor (a.k.a. The Games Girls)

Training Peer Helpers

May 5th, 2011

I just discovered this book a few weeks ago, and it’s hot on my list of book to recommend to schools and youth organizations.

“When young people struggle with problems, to whom do they turn for help? Most often, it’s their friends.”  This book uses experiential learning to teach students how to be peer helpers.  They cover topics such as:

“• Communication: asking questions and listening for content and feelings
• Assertiveness: expressing rights and desires, dealing with peer pressure, and managing
sensitive issues
• Confidentiality: honoring what others share and deciding when safety concerns override it
• Decision Making: weighing information and evaluating choices
• Conflict Mediation: dealing with disagreements and reaching peaceful solutions”

Read the full description at the publisher’s website or find it online at your favorite bookstore.

Everyday Ways to Foster Independence in Kids

May 2nd, 2011

This is actually a parenting post, but I think it has great applications for educators and youth workers.  The primary topics relate to independent play time, dealing with frustrations, handling conflict, and conversation styles.  Read the full article here.

Positive Masculinity Model – Mark Kiselica and Matt Englar

January 17th, 2011

Mark Kiselica and Matt Englar write about the Positive Masculinity Model, a practice that focuses on the positive aspects of male development instead of focusing on the negative struggles that men face.  Developmental Assets always encourage a strengths-based approach, so this focus makes a lot of sense.  I especially liked reading the ten strengths that they identified in men.  It reminds me to appreciate characteristics that I often take for granted in the men/boys around me.  I thought it might open your eyes as well…

  1. Male relational styles – developing relationships through having fun, being active, doing shared activities
  2. Male ways of caring – the expectation that they should be the protectors of their families and friends
  3. Generative fatherhood – the way a father is committed to caring for the next generation through providing for his children
  4. Male self-reliance – the way men and boys use their own resources to confront life’s challenges (inner strength)
  5. The worker/provider tradition in men – the way men naturally take on the role of the breadwinner and acquire a sense of meaning and purpose through work
  6. Male courage, daring, and risk-taking – e.g. in their choice of work or sport (but balanced by good judgment against foolhardiness and recklessness)
  7. The group orientation of men and boys – the way they band together to achieve a common purpose
  8. The humanitarian service of fraternal organizations – developing social interest and a sense of belonging through involvement in male organizations
  9. Men’s use of humor – as a way to attain intimacy, have fun, develop and maintain relationships, show they care, reduce tension, and manage conflict
  10. Male heroism – demonstrating exceptional nobility in the way they lead their lives, overcoming great obstacles, or making great contributions to others.

Read more about the Positive Masculinity Model in Bridget Grenville-Cleave‘s article:  Dare We Let Boys Be Boys? Positive Masculinity and Positive Psychology

Asset Building Ideas for Youth – Part 2

December 13th, 2010

• Let your friends know you are available when they need someone to talk to. If they need it, help them get additional assistance from a counselor, social worker, parent or teacher.
• Limit the amount of t.v. you watch.
• Participate in at least one club, group or team that appeals to you.
• Post the 40 assets somewhere where you can see them. Choose a different one each day to focus on nurturing in your friends.
• Practice ways of saying no when people try to get you to do things that you don’t really want to do.
• Replace put-downs with affirmations.
• Seek out adult mentors and healthy role models.
• Seek out people and information to help make your future dreams come true.
• Start a book club with friends, read for fun and/or read to younger kids in day cares.
• Take a conflict mediation course.
• Talk about the 40 assets with friends or in a club you’re involved in. Which assets do you feel are the strongest for each of you? Which ones would you like to increase? Figure out ways you can support each other.
• Think of your best friends. How can you help build assets for them?
• Try a lot of different activities and experiences – music, sports, art and theatre.
• Volunteer through 1st Harvest, tutoring, camp, Habitat for Humanities and other great programs in the community.
• Write a note or call one of the main asset builders in your life. Thank that person for making a difference in your life.

Raving Reviews of Building Character from the Start

May 17th, 2010

Cathi MacRae just wrote a raving review of our new book in Youth Today, the premier newspaper for youth workers.  Hooray!!

Building Character from the Start: 201 Activities to Foster Creativity, Literacy, and Play in K-3
by Susan Ragsdale and Ann Saylor
151 pages. $29.95 paperback with CD.

Applying youth development strategies to children from kindergarten through third grade, this collection offers activities that foster creative arts, reading and writing, movement and other forms of play in which children absorb such life skills as conflict resolution and responsibility. Each activity builds one or more developmental assets.

“Tools of imagination” are organized in three units:

• Forty reproducible worksheets encourage artistic expression with unfinished pictures. For example, children fill a blank comic balloon above a laughing boy’s head with a picture of “something that makes your family laugh.”

• More than 90 books are recommended in sections for grades K-1 and 2-3, with story summaries, discussion questions and activities. After reading Yoko by Rosemary Wells, in which Yoko’s lunchbox sushi makes her classmates laugh, children try new foods, along with the story’s characters.

• More than 70 games organized in 11 types, from community building to word games, including Olympics games like “Disk Throw” with paper plates and Artsy Games like “Human Band.”

In settings from Boys & Girls Clubs to babysitting, camps, church groups, after-school programs and classrooms, leaders can use these lively activities to help children explore values that shape character – while they’re having fun. (800) 888-7828,

Kids on the Block

May 7th, 2010

Kids on the Block offers a series of age-appropriate and interactive programs for students in grades K-6.   I’ve included information on their Nashville program, but you can also explore programs offered in  your area at their national site.

Sticks and Stones (Kindergarten – 25 minutes) – This program was developed for younger audiences to educate, as well as hold their attention. The presentation is a short puppet show on teasing and name-calling followed by a visual and interactive session between the puppeteers and children dealing with how painful anf unforgettable bullying can be.

Problem Solving (1st grade – 25 minutes) – This program features two friends who are fighting over who actually owns a video that they purchased together. With the help of an older brother and the audience, the characters are able to figure out a solution by using the problem-solving process. The program helps children understand there are many ways to solve a problem. It also teaches a simple technique to calm down and get control so that they can make smart and safe decisions.

Divorce (1st or 2nd grade) – From a child’s perspective, this program is about an 11 year old girl whose parents have recently divorced. She talks about all of her feelings with her friend as well as with her mother. She’s even able to talk to her mother about feeling caught in the middle.

Awareness of Differences (2nd grade) – The goal of this program is to promote understanding and acceptance of every individual regardless of their differences. The presentation shows that everyone is different. It teaches children to embrace differences rather than to bully someone because of them. This presentation includes visual differences such as cerebral palsy, blindness and deafness. New in 2009, KOB is now offering a program on Autism as an alternative to one of the other 3 subjects currently presented.

Awareness of Differences (3rd grade) – This program deals with differences of all kinds: medical, mental, cultural, and physical.
Child Abuse Prevention (3rd grade) – This program empowers students to identify child abuse and neglect, to learn what to do in an abusive situation, and to learn how to say “No!” It also provides guidance and emotional support to children who have been abused.

Growing Up Healthy (3rd or 4th grade) – This topic was developed to educate children about the relationship between food and physical movement; and how they affect weight and health. The program promotes sensitivity, understanding and acceptance of differences in all body types.

Gift of Life (4th grade) – This program explains organ and tissue donation and discusses coping with death in a family. It identifies the stages of grieving letting children know it is alright to talk about their feelings.

Bullying Prevention (4th grade) – The focus of this presenation is conflict resolution and problem solving. This educational curriculum has been designed to explain and define bullying, introduce problem solving techniques, and encourage children to talk about their feelings as well as voice their concerns in unjust situations. The program challenges bystanders to speak up for their fellow classmates.

Prejudice Prevention (5th grade) – Prevention of stereotyping and prejudice is the focus of this program. The curriculum is designed to increase awareness and acceptance of human similarities and differences, encourage students to reject unacceptable bullying behavior in others, and suggest ways for students to work together to stop bullying and prejudice.

HIV/AIDS Prevention (5th grade) – This abstinence-based program includes a description of the disease, defines high risk behaviors including drug and alcohol use, discusses myths about the spread of AIDS, describes values and choices, and demonstrates compassion for a person who is dying.

Teen Pregnancy and Substance Abuse Prevention (6th grade) – This is an abstinence-based program teaching that sex is a responsible adult choice. The presentation educates students on substance abuse and how a person who is using drugs could make choices that they wouldn’t normally make. It introduces students to critical thinking, problem solving, and negotiation skills.

April 8th, 2010

Our team will be presenting 3 workshops at the TCAC Resident Initiatives Program in Pigeon Forge next month.  The conference is titled “Leadership: The Missing Link”. This leadership training opportunity is specifically coordinated to address the unique issues and challenges faced by housing advocates, volunteers, resident leaders, and resident services staff serving in public housing communities across the country. Topics will include Project Planning, Conflict Mediation, Health & Wellness, Developing Partnerships and more.  More information is available at by clicking on the “Programs” tab and then clicking “Resident Initiatives”.

If you need more incentive, the registration includes lodging at one of the indoor/outdoor waterparks in the beautiful Smoky Mountains.  So you can enjoy a family vacation combined with a professional development opportunity! Learning, networking, laughter, and relaxation all rolled together into one great conference!

Helpful Hints in Dealing With Different Areas Of Conflict

April 7th, 2010

Some people seem to thrive on conflict, but not me! Conflict truly makes me feel like a fish out of water. But it’s a part of life in the real world, so I was grateful to find these tips on dealing with conflict. They come from the website of one of our partnering organizations – Tennessee’s Community Assistance Corporation.

Teamwork – How To Deal With Conflict
Reacting To Difficult Types of People
If You Must Criticize Someone

Do you have other favorite resources for teaching adults and youth how to deal with conflict? We’d love to learn from you!