Ever See a Crab in the Forest?

  NATURE MAKES US NICER.

A study done by the U. of Rochester, 370 people were shown either images of man-made or natural objects and worked in space with or without indoor plants. Images of nature and indoor plants made people feel more connected, more caring and charitable toward others. Man-made images made people place more value on wealth and fame. Other research tells us that exposure to nature reduces stress.
So, if you’re looking for a gift that keeps on giving, try plants and photos of natural settings to help you through the dreary days of winter. Visit parks and natural areas as often as you can.
To view beautiful photos of nature click on Travel + Nature at:   http://www.treehugger.com
Spring is just around the corner!

To get children interested in nature, take them            

Boston Arboretum

Boston Arboretum

outdoors. It doesn’t have to be a park or forest. A playground, back yard or grassy field will do nicely. Get down on your knees and look for things hiding in the grass and under leaves and rocks. Most children have a natural curiosity when it comes to bugs, birds, and wild creatures. If you’re a bit squeamish regarding members of the insect population, try not to project those feelings onto your child.  Most bugs and insects are harmless and fascinating to watch as they go about their business. A magnifying glass will add a level of “scientific authority” to the activity. It’s also fun to take along a camera or some paper and pencil to record what you discover. Have a contest for whoever can find the most different species.

Buds are springing up from the ground and on trees thanks to our mild winter.  How many can you and your child identify?  There are lots of field guides available to help you identify plants and insects.                             Triple oaks spiderWhat are some of your favorite natural spaces?

Remember: “Take only photos, leave only footprints

Shake Off the Winter Blahs.

 I recently visited the Art Museum on the Princeton University campus. It was great for three reasons. First of all, it’s free. There aren’t many places of culture and enlightenment nowadays that can boast that. And, the collection has something for everyone.  There are sculptures and pottery over 4,000 years old, paintings done by ANDY WARHOL, and everything in between.

The third reason it was a great visit is because where else but an art museum provides peace, quiet, and contemplation along with some magnificent objects of beauty? Being in such an environment frees the mind and allows all sorts of creative energy to enter. Writers who are struggling with writer’s block might find inspiration looking at any painting or sculpture, and stories begin to spring into mind. WHY did the artist choose such a subject? WHAT IF the subject were alive today? WHAT would she/he have to say?  The possibilities for story are endless.

Let the kids go on a SCAVENGER HUNT, searching for specific art pieces throughout the day.  Many museums have programs geared specifically for children.

So, if you feel as if you’re in a rut and need some CHANGE to jump start the muse, visit the Princeton University Art Museum – or ANY art museum and let your imagination run wild. Take notes, snap photos and just doodle in a notebook. You never know, it may be the start of something wonderful. artmuseum.princeton.edu

Didn’t someone say “a picture is worth a thousand words?”

In Service to Others.

Tomorrow is a day we’ve set aside to remember a great man: Martin Luther King Jr.  What better way to remember him and honor his memory than to do our own “good deeds” of service.  To quote King: “I have decided to stick with Love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”           martin_luther_king_jr_nywtsTo discover service opportunities in your community visit: http://www.nationalservice.gov/mlkday

Scholastic has lesson plans for teachers in grades 3-12 as well as service opportunities for children.  http://www.scholastic.com/mlkday

2017: A Year to Be Kind.

According to a poll by Kindness USA, only 25 percent of Americans believe we live in a kind society.  In another survey of 10,000 teens, 4 out of 5 said their parents are more interested in achievement and personal happiness than in caring for others.  There is definitely less kindness in public life.

With so much harshness, negativity, hatred and meanness that seems to populate discourse in our society, it was very encouraging to see a recent article about BEING KIND.  The article, by Paula Spencer Scott in PARADE MAGAZINE, lists ways we can change this discourse and make kindness a priority in our lives.

1.You can join PARADE and the RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS FOUNDATION in this year’s challenge: Write 52 Thank You Notes – one each week to a different person for a year.  Besides bringing kindness and joy to the recipient, this gratitude boosts happiness and well-being in the “doer” as well.  You can find a template for a simple thank you  note at: http://www.Parade.com/note.

2. Read Orly Wahba’s KINDNESS BOMERANG: HOW TO SAVE THE WORLD (AND YOURSELF) THROUGH 365 DAILY ACTS for simple suggestions on how to pass on kindness such as sharing a cup of tea with grandma and reminiscing about times shared.

3. TEACHERS can find downloadable lesson plans on teaching kindness at: http://www.randomactsofkindness.org

4. Looking for a way to acknowledge good deeds or inspire someone to “pay it forward”? Go to: http://www.Parade.com/cards    to print out free kindness cards to pass out to those who do good deeds.

Even the folks at SESAME STREET know the importance of kindness.  It needs to be taught and modeled. The new – 47th – season of the program will focus on modeling kind behaviors and explicitly labeling kindness when it happens.

If you need more of an incentive to practice kindness on a daily basis, here are some proven benefits:

Being kind feels good.  Not only do you and the other person get a lift, but so do witnesses.  Each person involved is then motivated to “Pass on the kindness”.

Kindness leads to a less isolated, more connected world.

Strong social-emotional skills in young people predict success later in life better than IQ scores.  It is also seen as a key to anti-bullying programs.  To learn more about these programs visit the Girls Scouts of the USA BE A FRIEND PROGRAM, Lady Gaga’s BORN THIS WAY FOUNDATION, and the KIND CAMPAIGN started by 2 graduates of Pepperdine University.

To see how cities across America are spreading kindness, visit: http://www.cityofkindness.org

Kindness is one condition worth spreading and sharing with the world. What acts of kindness will you do today, tomorrow and throughout the year?  I’ll be checking back here periodically with an update on my own “kindness project”.

 

Your New Year Challenge

At the start of a new year, many of us make resolutions and try to make some changes in our lives.  The idea of a fresh start is always an exciting one for me. It is an opportunity to begin with a clean slate and endless possibilities.

For 2017 I am offering you and your children a challenge.

Learn something new together. Take dance classes, an on-line puppet tutorial, learn to yodel or juggle.  Whatever takes your fancy. Every time you learn something new, you fire synapses in your brain and give it a boost.

Try new foods. If you cook and prepare meals with your children, they will be more inclined to eat new foods.

Learn a new skill. Sewing, knitting, woodworking, ceramics, gardening, knot tying, origami, basket weaving…there are so many wonderful ways to express creativity.  Once you learn a skill, it will be with you forever and yours to pass on to others.

Visit a place you’ve never been to before.  Art museum, dinosaur dig site, beach, mountains, cave, National Park, anywhere near or far that you’ve wanted to visit and have yet to do so. You’ll be happy you did.  It’s a great way to make memories.

Help someone in need.  Do at least one kind thing for someone else each week. Your good feelings will last long after the event.

When you receive a kindness – be it a compliment, gift, gesture, or whatever – Pay It Forward.

A Happy, Peaceful and Productive 2017 to all!

We Are All Multi-sensory Learners

Today’s post is a re-blog from 2013 from a friend Gail Terp who does a fabulous job providing books, activities, games and links using a multi-sensory approach to learning.

We Are All Multisensory Learners!   by Gail Terp

How do you learn best? Would you rather to listen to an explanation? Read about the subject? Watch a demonstration? Conduct some trial-and-error experiments on your own? Perform a combination of the above? This last choice is an example of multisensory learning.

Multisensory learning is when we use visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile ways to learn and to remember what we learn. We link our visual (what we see), auditory (what we hear), and kinesthetic/tactile (movement/what we feel) pathways.

Multisensory learning works for everyone and it especially works for children. As adults, we have learned how to gather information using whatever modes are available to us. When we are presented information in just one way, such as in a book or through a lecture, we’ve figured out, more or less, how to get what we need. Children usually haven’t learned how to do that.

Multisensory teaching, providing learning experiences that combine more than one sense, is often recommended for students with learning difficulties. But really, it’s important for all learners. Why? There are several reasons. Using more than one sense:

·     helps to compensate for a weaker sense

·    is more engaging

·    helps overcome distractions (they’re everywhere!)

·    opens up more ways to gather information

·    helps build memory of what is learned

·    taps into nonverbal reasoning skills

·    is more fun

The Lexicon Reading Center  http://www.lexiconreadingcenter.org/what-is-multisensory-teaching-techniques.htmloffers many multisensory techniques that can be used to assist in learning. Here is a modified list:

To stimulate visual reasoning and learning:

·        Posters, computers or flash cards

·         Using color for highlighting, organizing information or imagery

·         Student-created art, images, text, pictures and video

Auditory techniques

·         Books on tape, paired reading (read text together, either simultaneously or taking turns) and computerized text readers

·         Video or film with accompanying audio

·         Music, song, instruments, speaking, rhymes, chants and language games

Tactile teaching methods (using the sense of touch)

·         Sand trays, raised line paper, textured objects, finger paints and puzzles to improve fine motor skills

·         Modeling materials such as clay and sculpting materials

·         Using small materials (manipulatives) to represent number values to teach math skills

Kinesthetic methods (using body movements)

·         Pair jumping rope, clapping, or other movements with counting and singing songs related to concepts.

·         Pair large movement activities (dancing, bean bag tossing), with rhythmic recall and academic competition such as quizzes, flash card races and other learning games.

 Additional resources to look at:

Reading Rockets  http://www.readingrockets.org/article/6332/

Lexicon Reading Center  http://www.lexiconreadingcenter.org/

International Dyslexia Associationhttp://www.interdys.org/

This Reading Mamahttp://thisreadingmama.com/2013/06/09/multi-sensory-activities-teaching-reading/

Heidi Songshttp://www.heidisongs.com/ (Be sure to check out free downloads)

Gail is a retired elementary teacher. She writes kids’ books and is currently working on a non-fiction series about animals and nature.   She also runs a blog for kids who hate to read.

You can visit her at: http://www.gailterp.com

                     gail photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Karen Fortunati: Author of THE WEIGHT OF ZERO.

With the holidays around the corner, I am reblogging posts of some excellent books to remind readers that books make great gifts.  Here’s one on the YA novel THE WEIGHT OF ZERO…an award winning debut from author Karen Fortunati.

I had the pleasure of meeting Karen Fortunati a few years ago at a writer’s retreat in Avalon NJ.  We shared critiques and bonded over writing, the beach and sharing life stories.  Her brilliant writing stood out then and has only gotten better.  Karen’s debut YA, THE WEIGHT OF ZERO (Delacorte Press), will be out this fall and has already gotten raves and literary recognition.  It is with great pleasure that I feature her on today’s post.  Here’s Karen:

What’s In A Name? by Karen Fortunati

How do writers come up with their characters’ names? Divine inspiration? Subconscious memories intersecting with imagination? Focused creativity? Or just flat out making it up as we go along? For me, it’s a combo of all these methods. Here’s a little insight on the naming of some of my characters in The Weight of Zero.

Catherine Pulaski: The main character popped into my head with her first name firmly established. She was Catherine and there were no bones about it. Since writing her story, I’ve asked myself why “Catherine?” I’m guessing it’s because of my aunt/godmother, Catherine Lonski. Like my mother, she’s been a constant, positive and inspirational influence in my life. In addition, my mom has been interchanging my name with her sister’s for so long, the name feels like mine.

My mother, Margaret Angelo, Aunt Catherine (Lonski), Aunt Marilyn (Librizzi) (l to r) and little Emmy

My mother, Margaret Angelo, Aunt Catherine (Lonski), Aunt Marilyn (Librizzi) (l to r) and little Emmy

Now my fictional Catherine didn’t come with a last name so I had to choose one. Having gone through an American Revolution obsession several years ago, I decided to use a general’s name. I choose Casimir Pulaski, a Polish citizen who became enamored with the cause for independence. Once he got to America, he turned out to be a brilliant tactician and has been called the “Father of the American Cavalry.”

http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/chron/civilwarnotes/pulaski.html

So why him? First off, I’m part Polish. Second, the Pulaski name is familiar to me. I grew up in New Jersey and worked most summers at my father’s pharmacy in Newark. My favorite landmarks for the commute to the store were Newark Airport and the Pulaski Skyway, a huge elevated structure always hulking in the distance.

http://www.state.nj.us/transportation/commuter/roads/pulaski/history.shtm

Coincidentally, my dad owned a pharmacy on Pulaski Street in Newark prior to buying the one I worked in for most of my childhood. After writing the story, I feel like I see the Pulaski name everywhere. During a summer trip, we passed signs for the Pulaski Highway in Maryland and it gave me a little thrill. On a visit to the University of Scranton, my alma mater, I discovered a statue of Pulaski in town. I don’t think I had ever noticed it before.

 

Me at the General Pulaski Monument in Scranton, Pennsylvania

Me at the General Pulaski Monument in Scranton, Pennsylvania

Now, in writing this blog post, I’ve learned of another personal connection to General Pulaski. The general died on October 11th which also happens to be the release date of The Weight of Zero. In fact, October 11th is officially General Pulaski Memorial Day. I think the coincidence is weird but in a good way, like I made the right choice in choosing “Pulask

Jody Pulaski: Another name I purposely choose was Catherine’s mother, Jody. Originally, the mother’s name was Caroline (after one of my close friends) but due to the similarity of the two names, my editor thought something different might work better. This time the name jumped out at me – Jody – after one of my oldest and dearest friends. When I needed another name, I had to choose Stephanie, after another oldest and dearest and the remaining third of our friend triumvirate.

Jody Tole, Stephanie Hadley and me (l to r)

Jody Tole, Stephanie Hadley and me (l to r)

Jane Talmadge: I knew I would be naming one of my most favorite characters after my maternal grandmother, Jane. But my grandmother’s last name didn’t feel right so I used an old author pseudonym trick my younger brother Steven had told me about well before I even considered trying to write a book: Use your middle name and street name of house you grew up in. So I choose my grandmother’s first name and the street she raised my mother and her siblings on in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Aunt Darlene:  Again, this was an easy one. I choose Darlene after Darlene Beck-Jacobson. I met Darlene at one of Kathy Temean’s Avalon Full Manuscript Writers Retreats a few months before the release of Darlene’s first book, the wonderful Wheels of Change. From the very start, she’s been a continually supportive and encouraging writing ally and I’m so grateful to have met her.

It’s funny just how much your own experiences inform your writing. In The Weight of Zero, it’s the relationships between the women in the story  – mother, daughter, grandmother, aunt, friend – that help build a supportive network for Catherine.  Looking back on the names I choose, I’m thinking that maybe my writing (and naming) was one way to honor these relationships in my own life.

BDD_WeightOfZero_FB_Cover_1P_NO_DATE

The Weight of Zero: Contemporary Young Adult, Delacorte Press

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Seventeen-year-old Catherine Pulaski knows Zero is coming for her. Zero, the devastating depression born of Catherine’s bipolar disease, has almost triumphed once, propelling Catherine to her first suicide attempt. With Zero only temporarily restrained by the latest med du jour, time is running out. In an old ballet shoebox, Catherine stockpiles medications, preparing to take her own life before Zero can inflict its own living death on her again.

But Zero’s return is delayed due to unexpected and meaningful relationships that lessen Catherine’s sense of isolation. These relationships along with the care of a gifted psychiatrist alter Catherine’s perception of her diagnosis as a death sentence. This is a story of loss and grief and hope and how some of the many shapes of love – maternal, romantic and platonic – impact a young woman’s struggle with mental illness.

GOODREADS

Website: www.karenfortunati.com

Twitter: @karenfortunati

Facebook: @AuthorKarenFortunati        WeightofZero_front cover new12.indd

 Recognition:

A SUMMER/FALL 2016 INDIES INTRODUCE SELECTION

A SHELF AWARENESS BEA2016 YA  BUZZ BOOK

A BARNES AND NOBLE 2016 MOST ANTICIPATED DEBUT 

Kirkus: “Catherine’s acerbically witty narrative voice is razor sharp and often raw, and the confessional tone of her present-tense narration makes clear how overwhelming her pain is…. An honest, informative, and ultimately optimistic novel about living with mental illness.”        re3669

Darlene’s Review of THE WEIGHT OF ZERO:

Catherine – Cat – Pulaski is a high school junior navigating the ups and downs of adolescent friendships and relationships.  She’s also preparing herself for the dreaded appearance of Zero by stockpiling medicine for its inevitable return.  Cat is bipolar and Zero is the crippling depression that makes it impossible to live a normal life.  A life that isn’t defined by her mother’s constant monitoring, therapy sessions, and a mood rating scale from 0-10.  Zero found her once right after her grandmother died.  Cat is determined not to let it get her again without a plan.

            This amazing YA debut gives an honest and true voice to the silent and often un talked about world of mental illness.  It is a story with humor, heart and hope. A story that will stay with you for a long time.  It should be required reading for all high school students.