Wednesday, January 30, 2019

4th/5th Our Whole Lives Games Night a Success!

Thirteen 4th/5th grade Our Whole Lives participants and their two facilitators did a double header of OWL workshops a week ago, on the evening of Friday, Jan. 25.  It was combined with a delicious pizza dinner and homemade dessert extravaganza in the middle, followed by games and fun in the vestry until 9:30pm.  The purpose was to help the kids, who come from at least four different schools, to have fun getting to know each other outside of the structured class time.  If you're going to talk intimate topics during a sexuality education program, it's good to break the ice a little so things are at least a little less awkward!  Thank you to the facilitators, families, and parent volunteers for making it a great evening!

Sunday, January 27, 2019

January 27, 2019 - Impossible Possibilities

Today's Spiritual Exploration focus was "Impossible Possibilities!"  We had a lot of creative fun together.  What things seem impossible today, but are just waiting for people to problem solve?   We learned about innovators like Lewis Latimer, a child of enslaved Africans who escaped to Massachusetts. He was a Unitarian and also helped invent the light bulb and the telephone. 

The children had time to think of their own inventions or creations and made models out of some "pack rat" supplies (recyclables, etc.). 

Some of the inventions: hot air ballon with beds in them, pulleys to refill the bird feeder from inside your house, foot bridges that are covered and heated, covered boats and boats with clear bottoms for viewing underwater life, and several invented their own stories about people--real and/or made up. Children did a great job keeping our covenant: they shared and encouraged one another, they listened to each others ideas, and were kind.  Those are all important characteristics of innovators, who often work in teams!

Continue the conversation:  
1. Ask each person at home, "What would YOU create if you could add some truly new idea or innovation to the world?"  Make a drawing of your ideas together!    

2. Watch this video to see how NATURE has inspired some amazing inventions.  "Amazing Technologies Inspired by Nature" What in nature would you like to copy?  

3. Many people of color have invented important and sometimes life-saving technologies, but their names are not as known as many white inventors.  Check out the book What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors​ or this 2 min. video of "12 Black Inventors You Never Learned about."  

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Snowy Sunday January 20, 2019 -- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

A lovely morning of snow day worship and Spiritual Exploration! 

Amazingly, Jon Gailmor made the trek from Elmore and was a special treat to those at the 9am service. He got us all raising our voices together. I got the special treat of taking in service since my family was the only one at 9am! Joan offered a wonderful two part sermon--I hope you get to listen to it or read it later this week. 

A nice group of kids at the 11am service though.  One new family joined us since their church (and at least several other churches in town) were closed for the storm.  In the children's Spiritual Exploration, we passed the Wonder Box around and guessed what was inside.  A picture frame?  An ice cube?  A rock?  In the end, it held a microphone, symbol of the power of words.  

One of our new teachers, Brandon, read Martin's Big Words.  We talked about how things have gotten much better because of Dr. King and all the other brave people working for equality over the years.  But there is still work to be done.  We talked about how a legislator from Bennington, Kiah Morris, had to stop doing work she loved because of hateful things being said about her by someone in her town.  They made her feel too scared to keep going.  But collectively the movement needs to keep going, to make Vermont and the entire world a safe place for people of color.  We marched around the room to a civil rights song we learned, "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around." 

Artists are needed in any movement, so we decorated a cardboard mural of some of Dr. King's inspiring "big words" alongside many colored hand prints. AND we did a small service project to honor Dr. King. We made some Care Kits to give out to folks who come to the Thursday night warming shelter this week (with toiletries that are often needed when you don't have a stable home--wipes, bandaids, tissues, deodorant, Q tips). Here's the video of the picture book, Martin's Big Words.

Amazing effort by everyone--hospitality team (check out our young usher today!), snow removal, worship team, nursery staff and LSE volunteers and the many others. We also sent out thanks to all of you who decided you couldn't make it. We missed you but we're glad you're safe!

Above and below: one of our new child members of the Hospitality Team.  Children make some of the best ushers and greeters.  Keep an eye out for these fabulous young people giving back to our congregation!  

Monday, January 14, 2019

Last Sunday Marked Mid-year Point for the 7th/8th Grade Our Whole Lives Class!

Becky, Mara, and Peter... These three phenomenal, caring, passionate, knowledgeable, fun people have been doing the ultra marathon of Spiritual Exploration volunteering this year and it is so behind-the-scenes I want to lift them up for you all to cherish! They are the 7th/8th grade Our Whole Lives sexuality education facilitators. This Sunday they passed the half-way point--session #13 out of 25 total!!! Nearly every Sunday they are in the Bell Tower room 10:30-noon. There they co-facilitate 1.5 hour informative OWL sessions for the twelve 7th and 8th graders. In addition to the facilitating, there's the preparation and co-planning time. Some congregations have had to turn to paying their middle school OWL facilitators, as it is so hard to find volunteers willing to do this big a lift. It's really phenomenal and we should all give them high fives wherever we see them around town. They do it because they love it, but appreciation is always nice. High fives due also to the youth and parents who've prioritized this learning in their lives!

Wondering what some of the learning happening in 7th/8th Our Whole Lives is? Here are recaps from the past two Sundays:
From Jan. 6th, Becky Webber writes:
Hello 7th&8th Grade OWL families,
This past Sunday, the group discussed Healthy (and Unhealthy) Relationships. We began by emphasizing the fact that everyone is at a different point regarding romantic relationships (already dating/having romantic feelings, not yet ready to think about having a romantic relationship, or not interested in romantic relationships at all), but that all relationships in their lives, including with friends and family, consist of many of the same components and can be healthy or unhealthy.
Youth identified their own "Deal Makers and Deal Breakers' (things that they absolutely want in a relationship and things that they absolutely will not accept in a relationship). We talked about some signs that an aspect of a relationship is healthy or unhealthy, noting some red flags that indicate a relationship might be unhealthy, and gave them some tools to evaluate their existing and future relationships.
We also discussed power and equality in relationships--the idea that in any relationship, there may be one person with more power because they are older, have more experience, have more popularity/status, are larger/stronger, etc. (Some relationships, like parent/child, teacher/student, or worker/supervisor, are inherently unequal.) 
Discussing their friendships and and romantic relationships, we noted that relationships with serious power imbalances are often unequal, and thus unhealthy. We reminded them that awareness of these power imbalances, whether you are the "low-power" or "high-power" individual in the relationship, is important, as it can help you to avoid pressuring or being pressured and make the relationship healthier.
This coming Sunday, we'll be discussing Relationship Skills....
~ 7th & 8th Grade OWL Team

From Jan. 13th, Mara Iverson writes:
Today in 7th & 8th grade OWL we practiced communication skills because using our words and listening to others is the foundation for healthy, functional relationships. We learned about characteristics of active listening and practiced identifying good listening behaviors. We explored passive, assertive, and aggressive communication methods and determined that generally assertive communication is the most effective, but there may be appropriate times for aggressive or passive communication. Finally, we thought about times we have done things we didn't really want to because we were worried about a consequence of refusing. We discussed that sometimes we may have to consider what we really want and need and ask for it directly or tell someone no directly. And we practiced refusal skills.
Here are some videos with summaries of active listening, communication styles, and refusal skills.
Assertive Communication:
We will NOT have OWL next week. We return Sunday, January 27. Happy upcoming Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day!
7th & 8th Grade OWL Team

Sunday, January 6, 2019

January 6, 2019 -- Possibility: Focus on Welcoming a Friend with Tourette syndrome

January 6, 2019

Theme: We introduced January's worship theme of Possibility and learned the ASL sign (same as the sign for 'chance', 'opportunity', etc.) We mentioned that a new year always seems full of Possibilities of new, exciting things to come.    

Group Game: We had fun playing a few rounds of Cosiki which puts team work into the idea of Follow the Leader.  It's also a great way to practice NOT staring at someone.  They all wanted to play more rounds, so maybe have them teach it to you and play at your next big family gathering!  

Discussion:  In Cosiki you're supposed to always do just what the rest of the group is doing.  Lots of times in our world we're supposed to do what everyone else is doing, right?  (Ex. gym class practice certain moves, church or class, sit and listen.  It isn't always GOOD to do what others around you are doing (examples: if everyone were throwing candy wrappers on the ground you wouldn't want to do the same).  Some kids want to do what is expected, but they can't.  Sometimes it is just really hard for kids to be totally quiet or still, but there are some people--kids and grown-ups who really actually CANNOT be quiet or still because they have something called Tourette Syndrome (TS) or body or vocal tics and can't control certain impulses.  

Above: brainstorm by the 9am group.

Below: children paired up to see if they could resist the tickle of a feather.

At 9am we heard from Meredith Warner, a member of our congregation, who has helped someone in her life navigate body tics.  At the 11am service, a youth from U32, Willa, who is an official Tourette Ambassador shared her experience.  Both guests were extremely helpful.  Later this week I will share a short video of Willa's presentation with all families via email, so that families who weren't there might share with their kids (thank you Kenric Kite).   
  • What does TS look or sound like? First of all, tics are not ticks.  Not wood ticks or deer tics.  Ex. of body and vocal tics: shrugging, blinking, grimacing, or making loud sounds, spitting, even words that your not supposed to say.  The person is not trying to make the sound/movement, but they can't stop it.
  • What causes tics?  Doctors don't know for sure, but probably something in the brain or the nervous systems is not quite working right. It is like an allergy, just for that person and NOT contagious.    
  • A child in our congregation, Tristan Donlan-Kite, has started to have tics over the past couple of months and is really scared to come to church because of them.  He doesn't want to upset people or be laughed at or get in trouble.  He isn't sure he'd be welcome.  His mom, sister, and two friends from school were there at 11am to help us understand his needs better.  
  • As UUs, we have 7 principles we try to live by and the first 3 relate to this: 
1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person; (or "We welcome everyone.")
2. Justiceequity and compassion in human relations; (or "Bend kind in all you do.")
3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations; (Or "We are free to learn and grow together.")
  •  Is it Possible (monthly theme) to make kids with tics feel welcome?  Tristan would like to come back to the Children's Chapel, maybe even next Sunday, because Mrs. Koch is going to show her awesome slides from her adventures in the Arctic!  
  • Do you think we can make him feel welcome even if he's having some tics?  (We thought we could, especially if we try hard and all work together.). 
  • Brainstorm of ways to help included in pictures below:  
Activity: We had kids try to go awhile without blinking.  This gives the sensation of your body basically ordering you to do something, even though in your mind you're trying not to.  Finally, you can't help but blink.  At the 9am kids paired up with feathers and tried to resist itching their arm or face when someone gently touched it with a feather.  (Below: Abby Colihan, right, and Margaret Blanchard,left, were our 9am volunteers today.)

Then we brainstormed:

How to respond to in helpful ways when someone you're with is having tics:
1. Ignore it.  Pretend it isn't happening. Stay focused on what you're already doing.
2. Don't say stop it because they can't help it.
3. It's okay to give a little space for his body to move.
4.  Teach others who don't know.  Quietly say, "They can't help making those sounds or movements.  Try to ignore it.  He's not trying to be mean.  He really doesn't want to be doing those tings."
5. Get to know the person!  

What NOT to do: 
1. Don't laugh.
2. Don't stare.
3. Don't mutter about them.
4. Don't point.
5. Don't make fun of them or mimic them.
6. Don't take it personally if he says your name and a bad word or makes a face.  
7. Start using those bad words if that is the tic.
  • We role played some things that we do in the Children's Chapel while Meredith modeled a loud vocal tic.  The children did well not staring and staying calm and focused on the group activity.  They are all ready to be teachers for other kids next week--kids who weren't here this week--to welcome Tristan back to church if there at the same service together.  
What might the tics look like?  One hard part about Tourette syndrome is the tics are always changing.  Right now his tics are an urge to spit, so he may be using a cup or handkerchief to spit into.  Also, swearing  - often combined with a person's name— someone who is sitting near him or someone who has just walked in the room.  He's been repeating what others say and sometimes scribbles on other’s drawings.  Sometimes hitting himself in the face. 

Want to continue the conversation?  
  • What is a vocal tic or body tic?
  • Is it a bug?
  • What are examples of what a tic looks or sounds like?
  • Can't the person just stop doing it?
  • What can the rest of us do to help someone who is struggling with tics? 
  • What is the sign-language for Possibility?  Do you think it is Possible to make Tristan feel welcome at church again?  What will you do to help?
  • What are other things somewhat similar?  (People who stutter, or people with Parkinson's are two examples.) 
Next Sunday: Lessons from the Arctic--What's Possible When We Venture to Other Places?  Susan Koch, 1st grade teacher at Union Elementary, will share her slideshow of her adventure to the far north, to the Arctic!  It will be a great chance to practice focusing on the activity at hand, and not on the person having body/vocal tics.  Hope you can make it!  


Upcoming Events: 
Family Night for any UCM Families (long-time or brand new): Feasting, Fun, and Brainstorming
Fri. Jan. 18, 5:45-7:30pm. A chance to meet other parents and learn how we might be better able to support one another in this amazing and challenging work of parenting, and raising compassionate, conscious children in touch with their own spirituality.

Summer Events

  Thank you for your interest in connecting this summer. Below you'll find more details! Cookout for UCM Families & LSE Volunteers ...