The Black Franklins

Dr. Amanda Kemp has written a wonderfully researched and documented play called “Show Me the Franklins!” I took my daughters to see it at the Moses Brown School in Providence, RI, last October. I always feel enriched by encountering different perspectives on history. With this play you get a close look at how Benjamin Franklin and his wife Deborah might have felt about their own and others’ slaves and a sense of Ben Franklin’s ambivalence about the institution of slavery itself; did you know he died as president of Pennsylvania’s abolitionist society without ever having freed one of his own slaves?  The play also invites you into the life stories of several well-educated and dignified but enslaved Africans.

Dr. Kemp is available to bring her acting troupe to perform at your school. She is also developing workshops to teach her method of taking archival research and turning it into moving drama. The workshop could be a profound–transformative!–professional development activity over the summer if you are a teacher and want to get a group of teachers together. Check out her website for upcoming performances or to contact her to schedule your own.

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Lure of the Labyrinth

Wow! Lure of the Labyrinth is released, so your kids can learn middle-school math through an engaging adventure to rescue their pet from a kidnapping by an underground-dwelling monster. Of course, as with many good learning experiences, there’s more than math going on, such as references to classical Greek mythology. The story is set up with a few introductory screens of comic strip. In my house, the fourth-grader got fairly engrossed in the story while the sixth-grader was playing it a little too cool for comics, but, when the game started, began coaching and advising the player from across the room.  My fourth-grader has returned to the game several times; she really likes it!

Fablevision executed the concept in creepy style that still retains what I think of as their trademark whimsy.  Very nice.

Henry Jenkins is a senior advisor to this MIT project. I enjoyed listening to Henry Jenkins and Howard Gardner talk about digital learning at the annual meeting of the American Education Research  Association on March 25 last year. I like the information for families, much like the “Understand” segments Miriam Smith and I offered for each activity when we authored the PBS Parents Guide to Creativity in 2005. Lure of the Labyrinth also offers extensive resources to help educators incorporate the game into their teaching.

Related posts:

Educational Games

Video game “workout”

Calculators and Technology in the Classroom

“Meet” Women Scientists

Anti-Bullying at the Healey School

Wadson Michel is the super-cool, multi-lingual child-therapist-turned-school-administrator who serves as Assistant to the Principal at the Healey School in Somerville, MA. This morning he and the Prinicipal Mike Sabin talked a little about the anti-bullying efforts Michel heads.

One important thing to understand, as so many other experts also point out, is that by far the group of students most effective in squelching bullying at school is the group known as bystanders: those who are neither bullying nor being bullied at any given time, but simply being used by the bully as an audience. Michel & Sabin and their staff teach students throughout the school that if they witness bullying, they need not confront the bully. They are to find a way to extract the victim from the scene, “Hey I have to show you this…!” even with a gentle hand on the target child’s arm if it helps the student feel empowered to cooperate and leave the bully standing alone. Bystanders are not encouraged to confront the bully.

School wide, teachers are being trained to use Open Circle and Second Step programs to foster empathy and mutual respect, important in all schools, but perhaps especially in multicultural settings where misunderstandings can play a greater role in hurt feelings. They also have a mediator on-site for more subtle and yet sometimes more painful cases of social exclusion-type bullying to recreate individual trust and empathy.

Michel emphasized that kids do need to report bullying incidents. He is helping students distinguish play in which everyone is having fun from activities in which only one side is having fun. Sabin said the bully needs to receive a punishment, but that is more a message of justice and the school’s refusal to tolerate bullying. Punishing a bully is not effective in stopping that particular individual’s bullying behavior. Education and training in social competency is what’s needed. This reminds me of Marshall Rosenberg‘s assertion that everything we do is an attempt to get our needs met; the need a bully may be trying to meet shouldn’t be judged in and of itself. Sometimes we all could use better and more effective strategies to meet our needs.