28 April 2008

Week 2 of science fun

After I discovered the students in the science class had unbridled energy when class started at 3:15pm, this week we started with going outside and researching clouds. Part of the research was to run really, really fast while taking notice of the different kinds of clouds in the sky (while also paying attention to large obstacles on the playground). After running around for a bit, we went inside and got to the business of learning about thunderstorms (which rarely happen in Oregon... some of the students had never heard thunder!)

This week they made Leyden jars to create static electricity and chewed up wintergreen lifesavers in the dark observing little flashes of light as the sugar molecules got broken up. Science IS fun.

Things are still going well with my SMART reading... every Tuesday for an hour I read with a 1st grader then a 2nd grader. I am getting quite up to date on hip kids' books.

The school put on Annie last week. One of the students I read with was "orphan in the 2nd row, third from the left." When I asked her what her favorite Annie song was, she started singing "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile" and broke into dance as we walked down the hall. I can't imagine a better way to spend a Tuesday afternoon!


Do you wear earrings sometimes?

Do you wear earrings sometimes? Are you married? Do you have a daughter named Olivia? Do you have a son?

And so begins my stint as an after school science instructor!

I can’t say that anyone has ever asked me about my earring wearing habits within moments of meeting me. Even before the “what’s your name” part. I guess that is where a 3rd grader’s mind lives… good to know.

Week 1 (which was two weeks ago! I am behind in my writing… I've had some crazy work weeks!) included talking about weather disasters. One boy student likes to whip out whatever science lingo he has when I ask a question. I asked “what is the coldest recorded temperature?” He answered, “are you talking about Earth or another planet?” I said “good question… Earth.” He then said, “I think it is negative 122.72 degrees Fahrenheit.” I am not sure I knew Fahrenheit in 3rd grade, but maybe I did. I appreciate his use of decimals and multi-syllabic words whenever he gets the chance.

Of course the other three students are throwing things at each other… seeing which can scream louder… and “racing” each other whenever we are walking from one place to another. There is no order in this court.

Here are the class rules (developed mostly by the students):
• No torturing the class animals
• Don’t be reckless
• Have fun (that one was mine)
• No yelling (I think that one was mine, too)
• No farting (not one of my rules, but I do appreciate it.)

And we are off on a science adventure!

14 April 2008

What does it all mean?

This week has a few of the usual suspects and one new endeavor. I read at SMART on Tuesday, worked with our local AmeriCorps Alums chapter, and went to an orientation at Fernwood Elementary/Middle for a new Monday activity; teaching science in an after-school program through AKA Science.

I spent Saturday at the University of Oregon at their student leadership conference. I presented a workshop called “Civic Engagement a.k.a. how to be a superhero in your community.” There were 25 or so college students in the room and I decided to utilize their experiences in a focus group discussion about community involvement.

We watched a video about the 4 college freshman in NC who changed the world by having a seat at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in February of 1960. Within 1 month 54 cities had similar sit in’s. Those 4 young men made a difference.

The U of O students worked through a couple of scenarios where they were called on to react to theoretical situations on campus: a dorm fire and a campus policy change on recycling. The students had great short-term and long-term actions for the scenarios. Then we talked about one’s responsibility in the community. It is easier to react when something hits you, but if we were to talk about the every day things students do… what does it mean to be a “citizen”? In Ancient Greece, an idiot was the opposite of a “citizen” or someone involved in community.

The students discussed the idea of volunteering and whether that should be a part of citizenship. Some thought a requirement was good… others thought is should be by choice and related to one’s interest. They mostly agreed that being informed was an important component of being a citizen. This led to a discussion on voting and whether that was an important component of citizenship. The students thought that voting without information was useless and should therefore be a neutral indicator of citizenship. Do you agree?

By the way… if you are in Oregon, please make sure you are registered with a party so that you can vote in our primary on May 20th. If you are an independent, then you cannot vote for a major party candidate. Your vote matters! Please register by April 21st. More information on registering to vote is here!

Total Volunteer Hours as of April 13th: 87.5

06 April 2008

Cirque: 2008 Annual Art Evening and Auction

The state of HIV/AIDS in Oregon… about 4,500 individuals are living with HIV/AIDS in the state.

The mission of the Cascade AIDS Project is to lead efforts to prevent new HIV infections, care for people affected and infected by HIV/AIDS, educate communities to eliminate stigma and shame, combating the pandemic. I encourage you to watch the short video on their website for more information about their work.

The Art Evening and Auction is CAPs largest fundraising event during the year. It is an evening that combines silent and live auctions of art along with amazing food and entertainment. CAP gathers over 300 pieces of donated art for this event! In this its 29th year, it attracted 700 people as attendees!

Our volunteer job (my fella, his dad, and I) was to carry the art on stage for the live auction. A team of us carried twenty pieces up and across the stage as the auctioneer yelled out prices faster than we could walk. All in all the art all sold and we didn’t drop anything.

The results… We learned about HIV/AIDS in our state and the work of CAP. We witnessed an amazing event and now our feet are tired from standing on concrete. Not sure that we had a major impact on others, but I think the three of us were affected in our own ways. We might think a little differently about HIV/AIDS in our community, we might talk about it to others we encounter, and as we look for other opportunities to get involved, this just might be an organization we want to support again.

Volunteer Hours as of 4/6/08: 84

Did April start like a lion or lamb?

The first week of April was a busy one! I reconnected with my SMART students after they had a week off for Spring Break. They had energy before, but after a week off? WOW!

Wednesday evening I double booked the evening with volunteer trainings. First I stopped in at the Cascade AIDS Project for a volunteer training for their big Art Auction that my husband, his father, and I participated in last night. Then, I headed to North Portland to a training with AKA Science. I will soon be a volunteer science teacher in an after-school program for 3rd and 4th graders.

Thursday, I spent the day with a volunteer team from Wieden + Kennedy. W+K have produced some of the most amazing communication campaigns for Nike, Starbucks, and many other common name companies. As part of their Founder’s Day, 300 employees dispersed to 10 or so projects around the city organized by Hands On Greater Portland. I lead the project at Multnonmah Arts Center with 25 or so folks from W+K. MAC is a great organization that offers community-based arts education. The W+K folks painted a stage, organized costumes, cleaned windows, and worked in a children’s art room. Everyone got along beautifully. There was plenty of work to do. Folks felt like they accomplished a lot in their few hours and then they were all greeted with beer as they got back on the bus to go home. I like the way they work!

Lion or lamb? Not sure but there was a whole lot of volunteerin’ goin’ on.

Hours as of 4/4/08: 79
2 months gone and I am volunteering an average of darn near 10 hours a week.

Alums Meet in Denver

As I mentioned early on, I sit on a couple of boards. One that I work with is the Leadership Council of AmeriCorps Alums. It is not a typical board with fiduciary responsibilities because AmeriCorps Alums lives inside of a larger organization, Hands On Network. The organization has been a stand alone 501( c )3 in the past, but it couldn’t find sustainable footing so now it is housed in a larger organization. Probably more information than you care to know… but I think it is important to look at the sustainability of the nonprofit sector as it grows to provide services and organizing of our communities.

The last weekend in March I traveled to Denver for a meeting of our Leadership Council. I was on this body a few years ago and stepped off for a year and now I am back. It has been interesting to watch this organization grow. I am very excited about where we stand and where we are headed. AmeriCorps has now graduated 500,000 some odd AmeriCorps Members into the community. That is 500,000 Alums that we have as our constituency. There is an African proverb that say something about “when spiderwebs unite, they can tie up a lion…” this is one big spider web!

So in the last 3.5 years, AmeriCorps Alums has established nearly 200 chapters across the country, created a strong advocacy committee to address national service legislation, and is on its way to a strong governance structure that consults on its strategy and sustainability.

We have infrastructure... We have a great mission... we are on our way!

Hours as of 3/29/08: 71.5