A no-nonsense group of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders has transformed “the most depressing park in America” into a kid-friendly community mecca. No small accomplishment since it’s located in what has been considered one of the roughest U.S. cities: Camden, New Jersey.
The short history of the Student Leaders’ Von Nieda Park Task Force is in my last post. What you’ll see here are the secrets of their success.
The kids who may be the first-ever middle-school community organizers were in Washington, D.C. recently to visit their congressional delegation. They also shared with students from a multi-cultural Catholic parish in Silver Spring, Maryland, the Task Force formula for action: Continue reading
To fix a community problem, it may be better to bypass the adults and leave it to the kids. After all, they revived “the most depressing park in America” in what has been considered one of the roughest towns: Camden, New Jersey.
I was lucky to learn about this story at my college reunion when I sat down for breakfast next to classmate William “Jud” Weiksnar, now a Franciscan friar and former pastor of Camden’s St. Anthony of Padua.
Father Jud meets with a student leader
Jud told me he was curious to see if middle-school students could learn civic engagement, so he offered it as an after-school activity. Community organizing, he says, “goes at the root of the problem” and is all about “finding your own voice and speaking for yourself.”
I had to smile at his group’s name: the Student Leaders’ Von Nieda Park Task Force, or SLVNPTF. With an acronym like that, they had to be serious.
The first meeting of interested sixth-, seventh-, and eight-graders was less than three years ago. They chose a target: their dark, rundown, crime-ridden neighborhood playground. They then set out to “make the calls, write the letters and meet the people” who had the power to fix it up.
The students have been stunningly successful. The park now boasts Continue reading
almost knock you upside the head to get you to pay attention. That’s what it took for me to be mindful.
It was a Saturday morning in the middle of winter. I was getting ready to tackle a long list of home projects when I took a last peek at my email. A town meeting popped up that I didn’t notice before, and suddenly I had to be there. I figured I could also get some exercise if I rode my bike.
The week had been sunny and I was confident that snow covering the trail had melted. I grabbed my foldable bike, filled the tires and quickly assembled the frame. The latch for the handlebars didn’t look quite right, but it felt secure so I was off and rolling.
Finding the meeting less than scintillating, I soon grew antsy and before long was rushing back toward home. By then, the trail was more crowded. Up ahead were a duo of walkers and a small patch of ice. As I tried to pass between them, my handlebars buckled and I crashed to the pavement.
Stunned and embarrassed, a searing pain in my back, I was glad for the help of the pedestrians I had tried to avoid. One gave me a hand up as the other secured the handlebars—carefully this time. Offering a shaky thanks, I winced my way home with only a cracked rib and a bruised ego.
It took a trip to San Francisco to find out why the accident happened.
I was lucky to get a scholarship to Wisdom 2.0, a conference jammed with Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and executives from the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. But they weren’t there to talk tech. This gathering was meant to connect people “in ways that are beneficial to our own well-being, effective in our work, and useful to the world.” Since I’ve written a book on that subject, I was curious to know what “ways” they were talking about. Continue reading
A clever new video is speaking kids’ language about how to walk safely to school, in the neighborhood or on city streets. The stars are cartoon characters just snarky enough for real kids to relate to.
Safe Routes to School posted the 5-minute animation just in time for International Walk to School Day, this year on October 8.
Way back when you might have walked or bike to school. But do you know today’s rules of the road?
Walk with or against car traffic?
How old is old enough for a kid to walk to school alone?
Those answers and more are here in English or Spanish:
Walking and biking is a fun and easy way for kids to be outdoors, get exercise and learn durable skills they can’t in the classroom, like how to navigate without a GPS.
Even if your school doesn’t have Walk to School Day, you can always help them out and plan it yourself.
Want inspiration for parenting active, creative kids? Read The Durable Human Manifesto (it only takes 10 minutes, plus it’s mostly pictures!)
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