Go to the Library

A major highlight of my growing up years was the weekly (Really? Weekly?) trip to the library. We had two–Covina and the Los Angeles County Library in West Des Moines. The LA Library opened when I was older, and seemed just huge. Mom read to me and my brother every night long after we could read to ourselves. Then I went to bed and read to myself. The book I remember best was Palace Wagon Family, about the Donner Party crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

I just got home from the AVID (Authors Visiting In DesMoines) launch of Sara Gruen‘s new book, Ape House. Gruen’s talk was wonderful. It’s a good thing, since I am running on 4 hours of sleep in the last 24. As soon as I finish writing this, I’m going to bed with my new copy of the book. Ape House is a novel loosely based on the Great Ape Trust right here in Des Moines. It’s not an easy place to visit, but Gruen’s talk certainly piqued my curiosity.

The AVID book launch took me back to the libraries of my childhood. When we spent summers on our grandparents’ farm, the Bookmobile dropped off the only books available at the little store in Woodlawn. I’m sure Braxie’s business really picked up when our family was visiting!

I loved going there with grandpa to pick out another week’s worth of books. He usually bought me an orange soda too! I got in trouble many times for hiding out on the couch with a book when there were tomatoes to be canned.

So, tonight I got in touch with my inner “Library Geek” and intend to stay that way! What are YOU reading?

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

Engineer Your World

When I was growing up and even until I went on college visits with my nephew Wil, I had no idea how much engineering is a part of all aspects of life–travel, energy, safe water, medicine, almost everything.

Wil is a junior now at ISU’s College of Engineering. He’s having a great time (maybe a greater time than his parents would like him to have) and some interesting learning experiences. He will be going to California to talk about a project he’s been working on for Pella Windows as part of Team Tech through the Society of Women in Engineering (SWE).

Unfortunately, the number of women in engineering is still much lower than the number of men. Engineer Girl is trying to change that with this Web site where girls can explore careers and meet people who are doing the work. The site is sponsored by the National Academy of EngineeringEngineer Your Life is easy to navigate, has video profiles of female engineers and a lot of information on–

Let us know about YOUR engineering adventure!

Write a Six-Word Memoir

Last winter, my daughter, one of her friends and I wrote six-word memoirs to sum up our days. This exercise was based on the very popular book called “Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure.”

I found it a challenging and interesting way to review my day. We shared news about a sister’s engagement, acceptance at graduate school and other big and small events.

I’ve since used Six-Word Memoirs to help groups sum up their discussions as I was facilitating character education programs for the Institute for Character Development. I find that it helps people really focus on the central idea, and saves giving lengthy reports on discussions.

These free Teaching Guides are fun too. Check out Assignment Redux. I hope you’ll try some of the ideas from our colleagues at the University of Iowa. They include–

  • Assignments
  • Icebreakers
  • Reflections
  • Collaborative writing

And here’s a place to post your own six-word memoir.

Discussion Topics

Okay, I put it out there–What are some good discussion topics for middle school girls? Here is the first response I got on Facebook–
–music, clothes, dance, friendship and who’s cute-circa 1970’s
–music, clothes, dance, friendship and who’s cute -using cellphones, social networking, text, -circa 2009

Here are some more–

  • Media portrayal of girls/women
  • Cliques
  • Movies
  • Books
  • School
  • TV shows
  • Pets
  • Scars
  • Why you have your name
  • Grooming, cleanliness and makeup
  • How to pick out a good fitting bra and dressing for your body type