Play Triangle Tag

Triangle Tag is always fun, but especially when you play in the water. It  wears you out too. Wearing people out–the main objective of parenting, puppy raising and camp. Not sure how you’d play Triangle Tag game with a puppy, but I think we could figure it out. On this hot September day it’s appealing to think about.

The Triangle Tag game I remember best was in the pool in Sun City, AZ when my folks lived out there. My brother and I took our kids; Kate and Theo were little and our cousin John was there too. He was the prime candidate for wearing out. He always had soooo much energy. The game only takes four people to play, so Dave and I must have taken turns sitting it out. It may have gotten too intense for Theo too, like the time he got shaving cream in his eyes when we played Bunny Tail Tag. But that’s another story.

To start the game, three people hold hands to make a triangle. One of these is the target. The fourth person is it, on the outside of the triangle. Their job is to tag the target. The two “guards” in the triangle do their best to keep the target from getting tagged. When the target does get tagged, they’re it and the original “it” becomes part of the triangle. I like to play at least long enough for everyone to be it.

When you play in the pool, there’s a lot of splashing and laughing, and it’s harder to move quickly than on dry land. If the target is a small person, they can just kind of pick up their feet and get pulled around by their two guards. This works best in the water; on land it can result in dislocated shoulders and skinned knees.

I’ve used Triangle Tag to divide large crowds groups and make them more manageable. It’s a good mixer if you play People to People first. By the end of People to People, partners usually don’t know each other very well and you can combine pairs and go right into  Triangle Tag.

Triangle Tag is a nice warm-up for trust activities. I like to lead into partner games and stretches with it, and then initiatives that require more trust. It will definitely energize a group and get a laugh.

Triangle Tag was a hit in our pool when the kids were little. It’s hard to believe there was ever a 10′ by 30′ pool back there, complete with pond, decks, hammock and swing. Oh, and a hot tub. I believe we used to play Triangle Tag in the hot tub. I don’t recommend that. That’s our pool in the picture at the top of this post, taken the summer of 2007 right before we took it out and turned the back yard into a wildlife refuge. If you want to play Triangle Tag back there now, it will have to be on dry land.

Remember Evelyn Davis?

I started working in Des Moines in 1980 when I was fresh out of graduate school. Iowa State University Extension hired two urban 4-H professionals to fill one position. The Polk County Extension Director’s reaction was not warm. “There’s no such thing as a free puppy” was his frequent response to our requests.

Extension negotiated with Evelyn Davis for free rent in exchange for free programming with the families, kids and staff at Tiny Tots, and we moved into an old classroom on the second floor of the old Nash Irving Middle School, then the home of Evelyn Davis’ Tiny Tots Center. It was a cold day in February 1980, and Horticulture Specialist Mohammad Khan took us on a breakneck tour through the “hood” in his tiny Nissan. Things have improved a lot since then. Hofmaster and I learned our way around the city by being lost a good deal of the time.

Evelyn Davis’ work continues through the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families. The Center houses Gateway to College and other programs for individuals and families that struggle to make ends meet, much less get ahead. Ms. Davis was a force of nature that impacted me personally as well as professionally.

I felt my baby’s first kick in the hallway at Tiny Tots waiting out a tornado warning. When I brought Kate to the center a month or so after she was born, Ms. Davis took my crying child from Charlene Owens’ arms and she quieted and settled against that warm caring heart immediately.

Ms. Davis helped our nutrition education programs connect with other organizations in the community, and let us hone our teaching skills on her staff and clients. Our joint efforts brought additional ISU staff to the community to work with parenting skills, nutrition education and advise on home improvement. We turned those three classrooms into a real inner city Extension Office that impacted the community for four years.

Now the site of the old Tiny Tots Center is Evelyn Davis Park where we held our first 4-H Portable Challenge Training. We brought Sam Tower in from Washington State University to spend a week with 12 professionals from Extension, Des Moines Schools and Employee and Family Resources. Those five days began the adventure movement in the Des Moines area. That fall we created a physical education class for kids who were at risk of dropping out of high school because they were failing PE. Soon we added afterschool and summer programs, and finally corporate training and work with adult students.

Ten years later we started the Adventure Learning Center with Living History Farms and Polk County Conservation, still the premier course in Iowa. And that’s where I learned to climb poles. But that’s another story!

Celebrate Service

With Martin Luther King Jr. Day coming up in a week, I want to put something out there about service-learning, and how important it is to upcoming generations. This video is taken from my radio show, “We’re Entrepreneurs. We Can Help.” It features Nikola Pavelik and Lucy McCormick. Lucy is teaching humanities at Hershey Montessori School in northeastern Ohio and Nikola is Community Engagement Coordinator for the City of Dubuque.

I find that they are not unusual in their commitment to service and to mentoring young people. During the interview we all remarked at how these young people, then in their mid-20s talked about working with younger kids. Travis Wells was on the same page. He is featured in last month’s video “Kids These Days.”

Watch this spot for more words of wisdom from Generation Y. My research says there are more of them on the planet than Baby Boomers now. I personally hope they can get us out of the mess we’ve made of things. But my daughter’s response to that is “Don’t put that on us!” I think they’ve already started the job; let me know what you think after you watch this.


Kids These Days

I just made this short video from my first Internet radio show two years ago, We’re Entrepreneurs. We Can Help. Because my daughter was home for the holidays, it was a great opportunity to have a conversation with some 20-somethings. Listening to it further reinforces my opinion that Generation Y has some really great qualities. Travis Wells identifies his childhood with the cold war, and he and Lucy McCormick both talk about how important community is to them and for solving the big problems we all face.
Bruce Lehnertz and I were totally overwhelmed by the technical aspect of the studio, the microphones and cameras staring us in the face, and all the dials and slides. We ended up with only one or two camera angles, but luckily the audio worked fine.
This bit is Travis Wells, aka Madison Ray, a rising young musician here in Des Moines. My daughter, Lucy McCormick talks at the end of the clip about Scattergood Friends School where she was teaching at the time. Both of them are passionate about guiding the next generation.
Older generations have been ragging on younger ones since at least Aristotle’s time. I certainly was a rebellious youngster in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. We were serious when we said we didn’t trust anyone over 30. Now I’m twice 30, and count among my blessings the number of 20 & 30-somethings I call friends.
Take a look at the video, let me know what you think, and watch this space for more of the conversation in coming weeks.

Scratch a Woman

“Scratch a woman; find rage” a counselor once told me. Scores of reasons can excite feminine rage, but the one scratching at me now is the social conservative labeling women who need birth control sluts and whores. The same party that screams “Second Amendment” when asked to control automatic weapons, legislates to limit abortion rights.

What’s going on?

My theory is that men, on some subconscious level, are reacting to women’s economic and political gains over the last 45 years. Remember that women didn’t have the right to vote in the US until 1920. My mom was five years old then. Women haven’t even had the vote for four full generations yet.

I was alive and awake for the women’s movement in the late 60s and early 70s. I didn’t burn any bras, but I sure don’t miss the other restrictions I grew up with. I was an honor student in high school, but it was very clear that my career choices were nursing, teaching, motherhood, and office work. I went to college expecting to find a husband and get a teaching certificate to “fall back on.” What a rude awakening when no husband showed up, and I hated teaching. Looking back, though, thank goodness. Otherwise, I’d never have learned to fly.

My anger is directed at men of the Baby Boom generation, who have benefited from the sexual freedom women felt when the pill became available. Mine is the first generation with a reliable means of birth control, able to enjoy sex without always worrying about unwanted pregnancies. Some of the same men who would make a woman pay for her own birth control, have exercised sexual freedom without recrimination for years, and famously. The only way I can make sense of it is to look at the bigger picture–the rising majority of educated women and people of color coming over the horizon in the next few decades.

China and India are nipping at western heels. Chancellor Angela Merkel, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor have blasted through the glass ceiling. We have a Black President. Fight or flight provides the natural choice when we are threatened. But where’s a white man to go? Now don’t get me wrong. I have sympathy for some confusion when it comes to gender roles. What I will not tolerate is the scapegoating of women and other oppressed groups.

What’s a woman to do?

My approach, after a little ranting, is to ask, “How do we move forward?” I have some ideas, and here are a couple to start–

o REALLY listen to people. There’s a guy in my art class that’s always spouting off political views I find absurd. I’ve reacted angrily before, but now I find something amusing if I can’t find a kernel of truth. I’ve asked him to help open my paint tubes, and I work at seeing his good–he loves his granddaughters, and he practices yoga.

o Read history. I’m looking forward to reading Catherine the Great, and finding out how many of the legends about her life are really true. She and Cleopatra, another powerful woman, have been rumored as ultra-sexual beings. Maybe their lives provide some clues to our current dilemma.

How about you? How will you move forward?

Create Safe Spaces

During the year I taught school in the early 1970s, some of the kids in my 8th grade homeroom became good friends, and often stayed after school to talk. A couple years later one of them, Sammie, joined the 4-H teen programs we were starting–helping with the newsletter and planning programs. We took the kids on campouts, held workshops on everything from drama, the arts, feminism and juvenile justice to the American Indian Movement.

Eventually Sammie came out to me, admitting to be gay. I doubt that I responded appropriately; it was my first experience with such a confidence and I didn’t know where to find resources for handling it. We continued to talk about what was going on for several years and eventually, I had to visit Sammie in the psych ward after a suicide attempt. It broke my heart; unfortunately problems like Sammie’s are still so common today. We have a long way to go.

I’ve worked in the field of sexuality education for a long time; along the way I found out I had to examine my own attitudes before I could help anyone else. I’m very proud of my stepdaughter, Denise Stapley, who is currently the ONLY AASECT Certified Sex Therapist in Iowa. I like to think that the book I conspicuously laid around the house–What’s Happening to Me? back in the 1980’s may have had something to do with her choice of profession!

This post highlights some resources to help us take next steps toward a more supportive, helpful society where teens can trudge the path to healthy adulthood with courage and grace. Love Your Body is an earlier post that has a bunch of links you’ll enjoy.

I’ve developed a number of programs over the years–

  • Creating Safe Spaces, a video that offers helpful ideas for showing kids you’re a safe person. Use the ideas here to communicate your trustworthiness and willingness to listen. The video addresses things to do, posters, arrangement and self-disclosure. It includes several examples of safe spaces as well.
  • Challenge for Healthy Relationships is an adventure-based program I originally created to bring boys and young men into the conversation about sexuality and teen pregnancy prevention. The idea was that if they were involved in physical challenges, it would be easier for them to talk about feelings. We also found many activities that worked well as metaphors for decision making around sex, sexuality and pregnancy.
  • The Pleasure Meter is a way to start discussion; it helps people get to know and can help you learn about your group and how the participants define sexual behavior.
  • This post links to Go Ask Alice which has reliable information for when kids come to us with questions about sex. The site is a a Health Q & A Service of Columbia University.
  • I developed this post in the summer of 2009 when textual harassment was in the news. Bullying is still a big problem not only among kids, but in the media and on the highways. This video about what might happen if you talk to your parents, counselor or boyfriend about “textual harassment” is pretty funny, and a good example of how NOT to listen to kids talk about sex!

This morning I came across Doctor: Teen girls misinformed on body image, sex in USA Today, and it describes some indicators and guidelines for sexual education. As a woman and mother, this is a most baffling issues in raising healthy children. The article makes some great points about realistic expectations for sexual activity, establishing a relationship with a gynecologist, and reviews the book by Dr. Jennifer AshtonThe Body Scoop for Girls: A Straight-Talk Guide to a Healthy, Beautiful You; it sounds like a great resource.

You’ll find a review here in the Comments section as soon as I read it!

Keep Iowa Beautiful

I’m working with Keep Iowa Beautiful and the Waste Commission of Scott County to provide educators with a program guide and resources for teaching…

  • Service learning
  • Litter free schools
  • Character
  • Environmental education

…all organized around the Iowa Core and Common Core Standards. I’m using this post to run things by the Steering Committee, get reactions and involve them in pulling it together. I’ll make changes to the resources and continually update the committee as the program comes together.

Help us stay on task by posting comments to this page. Here are some of the resources we used to develop the program guide.

Learn by Doing

Only as an adult have I settled into my preferred learning style. A counselor once listened to me describe a daydream of swimming and labeled me a kinesthetic learner. I’ve embraced that definition and learned to facilitate experiential education through my career at ISU Extension. Did you know that the 4-H motto is learning by doing?

This workshop presented by the Adventure Learning Center and Training Wheels will challenge you to think outside traditional teaching methods and use more experiential methods. Impact Teaching is one Training Wheels’ most popular and requested workshops. I plan to attend the training; I’ve learned lots from Michelle Cummings and I think you’ll have a great time learning there too!

Develop Young Voices

Providing opportunities for making choices and speaking out are critical components of a model positive youth development program. But it’s challenging to do this with a large group of kids who may want to go in 30 different directions. These skills and qualities empower youth to plan for groups they belong to and for   advisory councils and committees. Make sure to help the kids you know develop these skills!

Create Meaningful Advisory Structures

Providing opportunities for making choices and speaking out are critical components of positive youth development programs. But it’s challenging to do this with a large group of kids who may want to go in 30 different directions. Here are ideas from a gallery activity at the 2008 Chrysalis After-School Facilitator Training for creating meaningful advisory structures with young people–

  • Rotate teams
  • Form committees & facilitate meetings with adults
  • Let everyone who wants to advise be involved
  • Facilitate activities that work toward group goals and objectives
  • Vary groups across grade levels
  • Provide consistency