Renovation for Hope

Making a Small Difference in the Lives of Survivors of Domestic Violence   by Sam Bryan, Bethany Kraft, Claire Lauder, & Tina Miller According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline and DVRC websites, abuse is a repetitive pattern of behaviors … Continue reading

Depave Project at James John School: Green Spaces for Sustainable Learning & Living

I had the honor of working with the James John Elementary School SUN (Schools Uniting Neighborhoods) program during spring term.  Five of my students were placed at SUN and had an amazing experience with the kids.  James John is currently experiencing a Depave project, where the large asphalt expanse of the playground is slowly being turned into green spaces: a small soccer field, trees, and garden areas.  In an era where kids get much less time outdoors and much less hands-on learning, this is a move in the right direction.

For all of my students who volunteered at James John and for all of you who love the idea of green spaces for kids, here’s a wonderful volunteer opportunity this Saturday, 06/23: Depave James John.  They are looking for volunteers to help with the depaving process, which I can only imagine is cathartic!

If you go, post back here about how it went!

Happy volunteering,

Zapoura

What “Highly Motivated” Looks Like: Jeana McClure’s Plan to Support Language Development & Emerging Literacy

Please note that the following is Jeana McClure’s final submission for the Portland State University Course UNST 421: Enhancing Youth Literacy.  While this was an assignment for class, it is also an actual plan for action beyond the classroom .   Jeana is an excellent example of someone who has been working in the community and who is dedicated to continue to do so.  This is an inspiring start for our series of student action plans here at PDXEAN:

This course has confirmed my belief that investment in and support of early childhood education is absolutely critical to preparing children for success in life. The research seems indisputable: Investing early in support for children is less expensive and has long-term benefit, for the individual child and the community at large, than investments made later in life.

The evidence is in: quality early education benefits children of all social and economic groups. There are both short- and long-term economic benefits to taxpayers and the community if early education that meets high standards is available to all children, starting with those who are most disadvantaged. Indeed, universally available quality early education would benefit everyone and be the most cost-effective economic investment(Calman & Tarr-Whelan, 2005, p. 1).

My personal interests in early childhood education are focused on supporting language development and emerging literacy. My community involvement will continue that focus through a combination of direction interaction with children and families, support for nonprofit organizations that provide literacy and other services to families, and advocacy at the local and state level for programs and policies that support early childhood education.

Goals: The next three months

In the next several weeks, I will work with the capstone students to get the library’s Summer Reading Program materials to the University Park Community Center summer camp kids. I think I’d like to work through the Kenton branch youth services librarian; I know they’ll be getting a new librarian July 1 (as part of the staff shuffling related to budget cuts). This is a perfect opportunity to help establish that relationship between the new librarian, Amourie and Danielle.

I will continue to volunteer at the Belmont Library on Saturday mornings for Family Story Time, and I’m signed up to volunteer again with the Summer Reading Program, which runs June 15-Aug. 31. Saturdays will be Library Days, as I’ll open the library at 10 a.m. with story time and close it with Summer Reading from 3-5 p.m.

I’ve also already signed up (through the Hands On Greater Portland website) to volunteer with Children’s Book Bank on Wednesday, June 27, 6:30-8:30 p.m. I’ll be working to clean up donated books that will be distributed to low-income preschool children in Portland. If that goes well, I’d like to do that once every month or so.

I’d love to be able to volunteer with SMART again in the fall, but I’m not sure my schedule will allow it. However, I contribute financially and get their newsletter, which arrived this week, and listed on their Board of Directors is someone I work with! I just happened to be in a meeting with him after I read that, and said I’d like to connect the UPCC staff with someone at SMART who could talk about their new pre-K program. I was excited to read about that, because when I was volunteering three years ago, they only served grades K-3. If SMART volunteers could be another source of support for the preschool, I think that would be fantastic.

I’ve had several conversations with the youth librarian at Belmont about the fact that the “white, middle-class, mainstream” kids are the ones whose parents bring them to story time, even in neighborhoods where libraries serve a racially diverse clientele. She said outreach to minority communities, particularly the Hispanic community, is more effective than expecting them to come to the library. It occurred to me this term that if I want to help the kids who are most at-risk, I will need to go to them. I will need to understand their cultural values and practices around literacy, so that I can more effectively communicate the value of literacy practices that contribute to school success.

I think the first step in that effort is learning Spanish. I’m going to buy the Spanish Rosetta Stone software and start that this summer, before graduate school begins. One of my teammates at work is a native Spanish speaker, so I have someone with whom I can practice!

Goals: The following three months

In addition to sustaining the ongoing activities at the library, I’d like to volunteer with an organization I’ve supported financially for more than a decade, Growing Gardens. Growing Gardens builds gardens for low-income families, “decreas[ing] chances of food insecurity by empowering low-income families to grow food for themselves, friends and neighbors in their own back yard” (GG website http://www.growing-gardens.org/our-programs/home-gardens.php).

When I discovered Growing Gardens and this wonderful mission, I was transported back to the days when I could go down to the basement on a frigid February morning and bring up a jar of home-canned peaches for the morning’s breakfast. When I was growing up, we always had a garden, or went to the “u-pick” fruit orchards and corn fields. When we were old enough, we kids weeded the garden rows, climbed ladders to pick fruit, and helped my mother can or freeze tomatoes, beans, corn, peaches, cherries, apricots. I would love to help install garden beds next fall, so other kids can eat healthy foods they helped grow and prepare.

Finally, I believe it will be important to be politically engaged for this fall’s vote on the Multnomah County Library district (assuming it gets on the ballot). Having just voted on library funding, it’s a likely possibility there will be voter confusion about the issue in November’s election (there is already unrest among the citizenry about libraries closing on Mondays even after the library levy passed last month).

I haven’t been politically engaged since 2004, so this will be the most difficult aspect of my plan. I haven’t the stomach for door-to-door canvassing or phone banks, so at this point, I’m not entirely sure what my support will look like. Fortunately, I have friends in the Government Affairs department at work who can provide guidance, as well as the library’s Volunteer Services. They have created a newsletter that comes out periodically keeping the volunteers informed about the latest developments with library funding, which has proven to be useful.

Staying on track

I’m already highly motivated, and staying committed won’t be a problem. The unknown is how much time my graduate program will take; I was told by the director of the program that I should expect to “give up” all my outside activities. If it turns out that graduate school really does become all-consuming, I still will be working toward supporting literacy. My master’s program is in library science, and I plan to specialize in children and youth services.

However, I’ve worked full-time while taking 8-10 credits a quarter at PSU for the last three years (the master’s program is 6 credits on the semester system), plus volunteering every week at the library since June 2010. At this point, I’m going to plan for being able to maintain a similar level of community involvement. I also would like to take advantage of staying connected through the PDXEAN blog and Facebook page!

Reference

Calman, L.J. & Tarr-Whelan, L. (2005) Early Childhood Education for All: A Wise Investment. New York, NY: Legal Momentum. 

Please contact me at zapoura@pdx.edu if you’re interested in following up with Jeana.

How Do State Budget Cuts Impact Community? Beyond School Funding…

In class for the last two weeks, my students and I have been discussing the Promise Neighborhoods Initiative and talking about ways that wraparound community support for kids and families (integrated systems of education, healthcare, parent education, job training, daycare, nutrition, etc.) really works to target the roots of the obstacles that communities in poverty and communities of color face in Portland.

These larger discussions about ways that communities can come together to support kids and families in effective ways really had me thinking about the community supports and organizations that I have come to rely on as a new parent.  Two of these organizations are the Multnomah County Library system and Portland Parks and Recreation.  Both of these organizations have faced cuts in recent years.

For Multnomah County voters, we have the chance to put in our vote to support libraries in the next few days as we fill out our mail-in ballots.  The library levy will help secure more stable funding for our amazing, rich library programming in years to come.  Each Thursday and/or Friday as I pack up the last week’s library books, put shoes onto my children’s feet, and pile everyone into the car, I think about how grateful I am to have access to free children’s programming that emphasizes the value of literacy and community.  Please make sure you vote to support our local library system, which provides a staggering amount of services to kids and families.

As for Parks and Recreation, I recently read an article about the 6% cuts that this program is facing due to bigger state budget
cuts in Oregon.  It’s truly not just schools that suffer from an unstable state budget that fluctuates wildly as incomes do the same.  It is the programming that serves to help kids before and after school and in the summers that suffers, too.  For the past few weeks, my husband and I have been taking our little ones to very affordable, wonderful programming at the Community Music Center.  The teacher (Teacher Connie) is excellent, and it gives our family a chance to enjoy a bit of structure and some music education at the same time.

My students have been volunteering at the University Park Community Center for the last few years and have learned so much from leading learning activities and helping to support summer programming.  The preschool at U. Park is one of the most affordable in the area, and the summer programming and Homework Club also provide very affordable, safe places for kids to play and grow.  With continued cuts to staff and programming, I worry for our communities, especially for kids and families who do not have a lot of extra resources for more expensive summer school programs or early childhood settings.

What can we do about the cuts?  We must continue to advocate for bigger tax reforms and greater stability to the state budget.  We must also speak out about the services that are important to us and to let overworked, stressed staff members know how valuable their community work is.

And as you vote in the next few days, keep kids and schools and community resources in mind.  City commission positions, the mayor position, and a representative seat are all up for the vote — and all of these individuals can have a significant impact on budget, the vision our city has on education and community, and policy that impacts kids and families.  Check out Stand’s interviews with the candidates before you vote!

Spring at PDXEAN: A Preview & an Opportunity for Readers to Shape Future Content!

After a lovely (but far too brief break) including a jaunt to the coast to clear my mind and to enjoy my family, spring term is upon me!  I’ve been doing the busy, invisible teaching work that is required for organized, current, creative classroom learning and have also been thinking about what’s coming up for the blog this spring.  This is a short note to preview what’s upcoming at the PDX Education Action Network and a chance for you to provide feedback on issues you’d like to see discussed.  On the spring agenda…

  • Following the results of the February legislative session in Oregon (including what happens with early childhood education decision-making consolidation & achievement compacts)
  • Gearing up for the Multnomah County May Primary Election, which will also include an important library levy
  • Gearing up for the November presidential election — yes, it’s time to get active to support issues and candidates
  • Talking about summer programs that support kids and families
  • Reflecting and asking more questions here about the kind of community-based learning that I (and others) do
  • Providing spring and summer volunteer opportunity information
  • Checking in with former students to find out about their community work beyond the classroom
  • Check in with current students to find out about what they’re learning as (potentially) first-time volunteers in education settings
  • And so much more…

OPPORTUNITY FOR READERS

Thank you to all of you who read and follow.  As always, I love to hear your feedback and would also like to know which education issues are at the top of your list right now.  What questions and topics would you like to discuss further?  What information can I provide to fill in the gaps?

 

Oregon Education This Week: Keeping Informed

My teaching duties have been consuming all of my extra time, but I’m sneaking away for a moment to give you all some links to current education happenings in our state.  Some of these are very hopeful, so do read on!

  • Project Harvest is recognized for helping black male high school students find paths to college.  Hopeful!
  • Grant High School’s principal is lauded for facing the tough issues (an inequitable two tracked system of class offerings, for example) and making rules that will shift the system and provide more access to achievement for all students.  Very hopeful!
  • Districts try to figure out the implications of Oregon’s new open enrollment law.  Lots of districts are opening their doors to transfer students.  While this may give some students the opportunity to attend a better school outside of their district, it does nothing to address the fact that ALL NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS should be good enough that the students in their area will want to stay there and will receive a high-quality education.  It feels like this law allows some to get around asking the harder questions and doing the harder work…just my two cents.
  • We are still waiting to see what happens in the last few days/hours of Oregon’s short 2012 legislative session.  Still up for decision?  Kitzhaber’s initiatives on early childhood education AND achievement compacts.

Read up and spread the information — the more informed we all are, the better we can advocate for kids and families!

 

Stop Multitasking and Become an Expert on Something Small: Valentine’s Challenge Day #12

Here we are on Day #12 of the PDX Education Action Network Valentine’s Challenge to integrate simple, easy education activism into your daily life.

Before I head to bed, I offer this challenge: be an expert on something very small.  What do I mean by this?  If you’re just dipping a toe into the world of educational equity OR even if you’ve been invested in local schools for years, it can feel overwhelming to get more deeply involved.  Is multitasking and spreading yourself thin in the realm of education activism the solution?  No.

The truth is that you don’t need to be an expert on every education issue or every decision of the local school board in order to be an activist, a volunteer, or a supporter.  Start by choosing one very small and specific piece of the bigger picture to keep updated on and be a strong advocate within that smaller piece of the puzzle.  You may want to focus on advocating for early childhood education or, even more specifically, more access to affordable preschool programs.  You may want to focus on working in a program to support high school students applying for college.  You may want to learn how to advocate on the legislative level.  Or you may want to track the DREAM Act and be part of call-in advocacy for students who may be deported.

Just take one little step. And if one little step feels too little, read up on the ways that focusing on one task or issue at a time (or at all) is really more efficient than multitasking!

These articles merely emphasize my little point here.  Don’t feel that you can’t do anything just because you don’t know everything.  Start small and share the love for kids and schools one tiny bit at a time.