Exploring Storytelling

All cultures have used storytelling to convey their history and impart important values. Explore the ancient art at Heather Forest’s Story Arts website. Children love to hear stories of their parents’ childhoods, and family storytelling is encouraged here, as are techniques for helping children create stories from their own lives. Rubrics that lay out criteria for building a good story are also provided.

Journey South Animal Migration

Annenberg Media’s Journey North website explores seasonal changes and resulting animal migrations. Classrooms all over North America use the site to teach students about migratory animals and how they are tracked. While the focus in is on Spring migrations, in the fall the site features complementary “Journey South” content.


You might have a child who fares better in individual athletic events than in team sports, or a child who would experience greater success in a less crowded competetive field. Or you just might want to offer a lower impact option to save their knees. Of course there are lots of sports that meet those criteria, but for one that requires little special equipment, check out the pre-eminent racewalking site on the web, authored and maintained by a longtime member of US national team, Dave McGovern. Dave is always encouraging, witty, and down-to-earth, not to mention amazingly talented.

If you want to learn the technique check out his schedule for weekend clinics. A promising high-school age racewalker attended the last one I went to, and Dave was selling her on the other perks of competing in a small sport, such as being more likely to be selected to travel to big track meets in wonderful destinations.

Racewalking is an Olympic sport (though it’s mostly broadcast at like 2 a.m.), and the USA Track & Field Junior Division begins at age 7.

Alphabetical Order

Working with physical objects prior to written concepts makes the notion of ABC-order more tangible to small children. Here’s a possible hands-on activity:

Take a variety of items or product packaging – cereal and other dry goods boxes are good, as are books or trading cards – and have kids physically alphabetize the items, rearranging them in order in the room by the name of the product, ie: Cheerios before Fruit Loops before Mini Wheats before Raisin Bran, etc. Setting up races or timed challenges in which they can beat their previous record will make this a fun activity that also provides some tangible learning.

New Magazine For Teens by Teens

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) online newsletter recently reviewed Happeningnow!everywhere, a new magazine written by youth for youth aged 12 to 18. In the words of the editorial advisor, the review was “well-balanced and appropriately cautious…, based on our one fledgling issue and tentative website.” (A second issue is now available.)

YALSA explains that they noticed the first issue because there are not many forums for teens to publish their writing. Here are a few others we know about:

  • New Moon, an advertisement-free magazine by and for girls aged 8 to 14.
  • Teen Ink, a magazine, website and book series of teen writing.
  • WhatIf?, a Canadian publication of fiction by teens.

If you’d like to tell us about others, please use the Comments form. Thanks!

Play and “again! again!” as meditation

A few more family-relevant gleanings from the Teachers College Record edition on contemplative practices in education:

  • In her journal for Daniel Holland’s course on Mindfulness, a college student who is also a mother wrote that playing with her daughter equals meditation because she is “in the present moment, focused, no past, no future. It’s just me and little [L] at that instant.”
  • Holland also tells a personal story of a Hungarian art history professor who expressed envy of those who see Michelangelo’s David for the first time. The professor had lost the awe of beginner’s mind. This story evoked for me how children can read the same book and watch the same video “Again!” and “Again!” because they can return to beginner’s mind each time.

Larry Cohen has written about how Playful Parenting can address a host of issues. Most importantly, I think, being focused in the here and now, perceiving everything anew as if for the first time, helps us really see one another with appreciation.

Holland, Daniel. Contemplative education in unexpected places: Teaching mindfulness in Arkansas and Austria. Teachers College Record Volume 108 Number 9, 2006, p. 1842-1861 http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12684, Date Accessed: 9/23/2006 4:05:46 PM


Have you ever been letterboxing? It’s the marriage of a family hike and a treasure hunt, with a little bit of orienteering or puzzle-solving thrown in for good measure.

A Little History
The activity began in Dartmoor, England in the 1800’s when, as legend has it, a gentleman left his calling card in a bottle in the wilderness. Today there are several thousand letter boxes in Dartmoor, and the hobby has been growing in North America, as well.

So what is it?
Simply put, boxes equipped with journals and rubber stamps are hidden somewhere and participants follow clues to find these hidden treasures, leave their mark in the journal, and stamp their own book with the rubberstamp found therein. Of course, there’s often more involved than that – for instance the tradition of fashioning homemade rubber stamps, but that’s the jist of it.

When my family discovered the activity here in Colorado a few weeks ago, the kids became hooked, and now when we tell them we’re going on a hike, they ask if we can go in search of a letterbox. Learn everything you need to know and get clues for your part of North America at www.letterboxing.org.