Meet Someone

Sometimes it’s hard to find a new activity to help break the ice at a class or meeting. I’m always looking for new ideas. I found this one that I put together a long time ago (I’m cleaning my office!) and thought I’d share it.

It’s certainly not unique, but it might add a twist on things you’ve done before. And you can use the name tags to divide the group into nine smaller groups.

I developed this version for a meeting of facilitators and girls from Chrysalis After School groups, so the symbols I used are related to things we wanted for the girls and their groups–unity, understanding, wisdom, voice, strength. This Name Tag Game has everything you need to print off to play the game.

Each person’s name tag is printed with one of the pictures on the Name Tag Game Board. Have them write their names on a name tag as they come into the room. Then they are to find a person with a matching name tag picture for each square on the Game Board, as well as one thing about that person they didn’t know before. When they have all nine squares on their Game Board initialed, they have completed the game. Prizes are a nice incentive. It’s great to have something for everyone as they finish. Maybe it’s their ticket to snack or a pin that represents the group.  

Learn about Money

I’m STILL learning about money! During the last nine months, I’ve written checks bigger than I thought possible for remodeling my house, putting in a new driveway and front porch. It’s really exciting to be able to do these things, and I expect to enjoy them for many years after they’re done! But I’ve had to revise my whole attitude about money, get some help and limit my spending to things I can pay for in cash. Those were novel ideas even five years ago.

Chrysalis After-School helps girls attain economic independence. Through programs like Bank and Store, outside speakers and Financial Champions, girls learn how to handle money, how to save, use a bank account and use credit wisely. The Veridian Credit Union has gotten high marks from CAS Facilitators for the programs they’ve brought in. Veridian offers multiple workshops tailored to any age group. Topics discussed are:

  • Balancing your Checkbook
  • Student Loans
  • Applying for a Loan
  • Identity Theft
  • Budgeting and Saving
  • Veridian Credit Union Products and Services
  • Establishing and Reestablishing Credit
  • Understanding your Credit Report

The contact for programs in Erica Andersen; her phone number is 515-289-5511.

Start Your Business

I think I’ve been a frustrated entrepreneur my whole life, so developing Next Step, Inc. has been an exciting adventure. When I was in high school, a lot of people thought that girls could only be moms, nurses, teachers or secretaries. But now women run some of the world’s most successful businesses–Pepsi is headed by a woman. And then, of course, there’s Oprah.

Do you want to work in the business world someday? You could be an officer in a bank or open a shop and watch it grow. Invent something and sell millions on the internet. One of the Chrysalis After-School groups–the Whyld Girls–started a business about 2 years ago. It’s called Product with Purpose, and with the help of their mentors, the girls run it themselves. The profits from their jewelry sales go into a scholarship fund; two Whyld Girls are set to graduate from high school this spring. The Product with Purpose scholarship fund is there to help them achieve their dreams.

If starting and running a business sounds like fun, check out Business Horizons, a week-long camp for high school students where you’ll learn about the world of business while you have fun and meet new friends. Participants stay on Simpson College campus in Indianola, July 25-30, while they explore their talents and how to use them.

At camp, each business team develops a product and figures out how to sell it. Teams create marketing plans and infomercials about their products, and then present their product ideas to potential investors. The teams manage mock manufacturing businesses where they make decisions about pricing, production, marketing, research and development, and capital investment. Here is what a couple girls had to say about the camp–

“Man I had a great time this summer! I am kind of disappointed that it is only a week long. Someone told me that this was a business camp… who knew business was so fun!”–Kashonna Drain, Waterloo

“Business Horizons was an amazing program. This week I was able to …network with some entrepreneurs in the Des Moines area, and I had a great time doing…this. I would recommend this program to anyone, it was an amazing experience!”–Kristi Philips, Ames High School

Embrace Winter

It’s been an especially cold winter in many places, but kids (and adults) can have fun and get healthy by going outside even in frigid, snowy weather. Each winter I resolve to renew my relationship with my skis, toboggan and ice skates. This winter looks like it might be a good time to keep that resolution! Ray Morley and his grandkids built snow huts and a giant sledding track across several back yards during winter vacation. My daughter tried out her new snow shoes.

I’ve skied off and on for nearly 30 years; a couple winters ago I had fun just taking my skis down to Beaverdale Park and skiing in giant figure 8’s, but there are groomed trails at Jester Park. Check out this video about cross-country skiing from Polk County Conservation; you can rent skis, snowshoes, boots and poles. This year Polk County Conservation is facilitating outdoor fitness programs for youth groups; contact Patrice Petersen-Keys for more information.

One of my favorite Chrysalis After-School group meetings was when the Star Choices girls at Harding Middle School spent most of the afternoon playing in the snow. The girls loved it and got some great exercise. Informal play develops independence and mastery. When I visited the fifth grade group at Capitol View, we were taking photos of the girls in the hallway and I asked them to all look and point to the right for a silly one. The next instant they exclaimed, “It’s snowing!” Their excitement was apparent. Two snow days followed, so that may have been the cause, but check out these resources for ideas about how to make the most of the winter months.

  • The Brenton Skating Plaza is a popular place for Chrysalis After-School groups; they have lessons, season passes, apparel and more at this site.
  • Sledding hills at Waveland and Grandview Parks are open as long as there is enough snow. The Des Moines Register recently published this map of sledding hills in central Iowa.

    Kate's Snowshoes

    Kate’s Snowshoes

  • My daughter snowshoes to Scattergood Friends School from her house on their farm; she says it’s easy. Take a look at this snowshoeing video from Polk County Conservation and see what YOU think.
  • On a quieter note, this slide show from the New York Times draws attention to the serene perspective of gardens in winter.
  • The National Wildlife Federation offers “5 Tips to Stay Warm” and some excellent information on why it’s important for kids to be outdoors.
Snow Hut

Snow Hut

Whatever you decide to do–make  a snow angel, build a fort, go sledding, skating or skiing, or just take a walk–have fun out there!

Tie a Knot

Yesterday I visited the Junior Bridges Chrysalis After-School Group at Southeast Polk Junior High School. It was really fun to see the girls surfing my Web site and then using some of the ideas they found there.

While they were in the computer lab, they asked me about the game, “Human Knots” and I told them I would put the directions up by today, so here they are–

  • Form a circle of 12 or less people; if you want a real challenge, try it with larger groups.
  • Have everyone put their hands into the middle of the circle and grab hold of the hands of 2 other people.
  • Don’t cross your arms; don’t grab 2 hands of the same person; don’t hold hands with the people next to you.
  • Now the group is in a circle holding hands.
  • Find the new circle without letting go of anyone’s hands. I’ve played where there was a “doctor” that helped the group get untangled.

When I was a kid in California, we played this game all the time on our patio, but we called it Scrambled Eggs. Once a kid fell while we were untangling a particularly difficult circle and broke his tooth. We all worked together to get help and get his tooth fixed and we all lived happily ever after.

Sleep Out for Reggie

As the weather gets colder, I feel more and more sympathy for the homeless people I see on the street. A few years ago, a young homeless man named Reggie died in Des Moines, bringing much needed attention to the problem of youth homelessness. Searching for more information about the problem, I found these three shocking statistics–

  • More than 1.3 million children are homeless at some time each year in the United States.
  • 1 of every 8 kids under 18 in the U.S. will become homeless.
  • 12-17 year olds are at more risk of becoming homeless than adults are.

The Iowa Homeless Youth Centers have sponsored Reggie’s Sleepout to raise awareness and funds for homeless youth for about four years. The 2009 event will be held October 24-25 at Drake Stadium. They need volunteers of all kinds to make the event a success and raise money to help kids who don’t have a place to live. Your group can volunteer to help organize or can get pledges and sleep out. Download more information about how Chrysalis After-School groups can help–Volunteer Opps Reggies Sleepout.

Participants at the sleepout make boxes into temporary shelters, listen to live music, play games and eat. If you’re interested in finding out more and volunteering, go to

Break the Ice

Eric Martin and Beth Mensing are masters at this icebreaker. At Chrysalis After-School Facilitator Training, Beth pulled HANDSHAKES (download it here) out of her fertile mind at a moment’s notice and taught it to the rest of the mentors. It works in any size group and is a great way to get your group to mingle and get to know other people.

Make sure you use the guidelines for introductions and have partners introduce each other to the group for some serious, or not so serious, beginning team building. You can tailor the instructions to your theme or audience. I’m using it next month at customer service trainings to focus on how we greet people when they walk in the door.

Go Outdoors!

The naturalists at Polk County Conservation are some of my favorite people to work with. I’ve facilitated adventure education programs with them, canoed, and learned to use GPS in parks throughout Polk County. Some of the parks make you say, “I can’t believe this place is only 20 minutes from my house!” They work to make kids and adults more comfortable in the outdoors.

The Polk County Conservation staff has facilitated service learning with Chrysalis After-School groups for years–kids like to cut out invasive species. They have taken girls snow shoeing, canoeing, fishing, hiking, geocaching, snow shoeing, winter survival….

You can count on them for innovative programming that involves active learning. They bring all their own stuff for programming like fishing poles and snow shoes, and their programs are FREE all year round but spring and fall are the best times for programs.

Schedule your group by emailing Patti Petersen-Keys or calling her at 515-323-5359.

Review the Chrysalis Report

As I finish the 2009 Chrysalis After-School Evaluation Report, I am impressed by the hard work and stellar outcomes of this innovative program. The third year of my evaluation work for Chrysalis documents positive outcomes for young women in:

  • Resilience
  • Economic Empowerment
  • Leadership

Girls, facilitators and parents are seeing positive changes in confidence, communication skills, school attendance and work, and in their leadership qualities, skills and behavior. These outcomes are the result of serious work at the front lines–facilitators have attended training, put it into practice and set goals for continuous improvement. They have involved the girls in planning and leading the groups and the girls have stepped up, led discussions, games and committees, and written applications for funding.

The Chrysalis Foundation Board, under the leadership of Terry Hernandez and the Education Committee, have examined the findings from previous years, made adjustments and committed 2/3 of their grant dollars to the program for each of the next three years.

If you would like to read the entire report, please download it here–

Venture into Social Drama

Annie Mielke and I met last year and got excited about the potential for working with girls on drama and then training them to work with younger groups as a service project. Annie’s specialty is working with kids with Asperger Syndrome and Autism, so her audiences learn a lot about these mental disorders, the challenges people with these diagnoses face, and how to relate well to them. Adventures in Social Drama visited several Chrysalis After-School groups last year, including McCombs PRIDE.

The goals of Adventures in Social Drama (ASD) are to:

  • establish safe environments in which drama enables individuals to explore creative moments as learning opportunities
  • utilize appropriate forms of social interaction
  • facilitate meaningful participation in a group dynamic
  • coach individuals to express themselves through creative thinking
  • promote positive interpersonal relationships
  • develop self-worth through episodic memories

Adventures in Social Drama specializes in dramatic exploration: Each program is specially designed to meet the needs of your organization. Free initial consultations are available. ASD works with people from 4 years old to adults. Depending on the size and length of the class, the cost is $150-$500.

For more information, contact Annie Mielke, 515-306-0030.