Director of Ethical Education Blog
Last week while our members were discussing causes worth dying for, the Sunday School students were having their own discussion — what causes did they want to trick-or-treat for?
Each year, for our October service project, the kids trick-or-treat after platform for donations to a charity. This year, we switched it up a little bit and let them pick their own charities while they decorated their collection boxes. We settled on two causes: LGBTQ+ rights and animals (specifically sea animals). With some research, we picked a local organization that works with LGBTQ+ youth and a global non-profit that cleans up trash in the ocean.
So…How did we do?
The children raised a total of $150, which we split between SMYAL and #TeamSeas! This money will go to provide programming and housing for LGBTQ+ youth in DC AND clean 75 pounds of trash from the ocean.
Thanks to our members for their generous support of this project! Without your help, this experience selecting a cause and donating wouldn’t be possible. I’m glad that we’re able to instill in our children that by working together towards a goal, we can do big things.
In the world of Learning & Development, where I spend most of my time, we talk about learner choice. It's important, we often preach, to give our learners autonomy and opportunities to choose what works best for them.
I've seen this described as a difference between adult learners and children, as if kids don't need choice or can't be trusted to make good decisions. In fact, all learners need, and deserve, autonomy. Sometimes our role is to deliver information and clear direction. Other times, our role is to stand back and provide guidance and support.
This Sunday, our students will participate in a Service Project to "trick or treat" for charity. What I know about this activity is that at the end of Platform the students will come around and collect donations for charity. What I don't know is what that charity will be.
While I was thinking about it and talking to some members, I realized that it doesn't need to be my decision. While we decorate our collection boxes, we'll talk about what cause the students would like to support and do research together to find the right place to donate.
If you're joining us at Green Hedges on Sunday, I ask that you bring some coins or a small amount of cash if you're able. I also ask that you trust the students to make a good decision.
Tom Nyilasi’s platform last week in Existentialism was a great excuse to share one of my favorite Frog & Toad stories — The Surprise. It led into a discussion with our Sunday school students about whether a kind act is “worth it” if it turns out to have no impact. The idea of doing the best you can without knowing the outcome reminded me of what I do daily as a parent.
Last month, I was part of a conversation about Ethical Education across our Ethical Societies. In that conversation, someone mentioned the idea that raising ethical children is a form of ethical action. Not only that, but the work that all of you do to help sustain our Sunday School program is an ethical action that we undertake as a society.
I appreciate all that you do for our Sunday School program! By teaching classes, reading our Story for All Ages (look out for a sign-up sheet Sunday!), and creating a welcoming environment for families, you are supporting this goal of raising our next generation of ethical children.
I was thrilled to see how the Sunday School students embraced last week’s Service Project to make cards to be sent to trans people along with gender-affirming shapewear. I’ll be sending the cards out on Monday (I want to add in a few of my own) so if you’d like to add any to our shipment, please bring them on Sunday!
After we finished making cards (20 of them!) we had some time to hang out together before the Platform ended. One of our students taught us all how to make paper boats and we tested them in a puddle on the playground. They turned out to be seaworthy, and the impromptu activity brought some joy to a cloudy, drizzly day.
This week, we’re back with the regular program, continuing our exploration of Judaism in Comparative Religion and practicing our stewardship in Every Day is Earth Day. I’m looking forward to seeing you all!
With the public comment period open for Virginia’s Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools and this week’s walkout by students in Fairfax County, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can engage our Sunday School students. This week, we will take ethical action to support trans youth while also reminding our NoVES members that they can do their part by sharing their opinion with the Department of Education.
I couldn’t be more excited about this project! Point of Pride is a charity that provides financial aid and direct support to trans youth and adults who need help to access gender-affirming care. As part of their work, they provide free chest binders and femme shapewear to those who are unable to access them.
With each donation, they include a handwritten note affirming that the recipient is seen and loved. On Sunday, our kids will create handwritten notes to send off to Point of Pride. Jealous? Don't worry! We will also provide materials for the adults to add their own notes following platform.
Gender-affirming care saves lives. I’m grateful that we can come together to provide some light.
The last month has been exhausting. My daughter, Josie, started school — a huge life transition for all of us that required us to learn new habits and routines. My regular workday has been completely booked (and complicated by the new routine of Josie showing back up at 3:30 every afternoon). As the new Director of Ethical Education, I also needed to plan for and organize the start of Sunday School at NoVES. From talking to NoVES members over the past couple of Sundays, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling like I’m constantly trying to catch up.
I’m happy to report, then, that I’m writing this from the balcony of a bed & breakfast at the beach. It’s a rainy afternoon, which means that instead of trying to pack in as much as possible, I’m being forced to sit down and relax.
This got me thinking about the different types of rest. In the linked article and TED Talk, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith describes the seven types of rest that we need (yes— seven!). Physical, mental, sensory, creative, emotional, social and spiritual rest are all important.
These different types of rest help me understand why I tend to feel lighter and more energized on Sundays after platform. I may be forgoing physical rest by waking up to get to NoVES, but I’m getting the social and spiritual rest that I need. This Sunday, I’ll be catching up on my creative rest by staring at the beautiful Delaware Bay. I hope you all find yourselves getting the type of rest that you need!
This week in Sunday School:
We had an incredible opening Sunday! It was thrilling to see friends new and old and to get back to our Sunday School routine. We read Misty the Cloud: A Very Stormy Day, a tie-in to Randy’s talk about finding hope in difficult times.
After the kids listened to the book (and two beautiful songs by our own Kimberly Nyilasi), we worked on our team-building project. We filled out cards with prompts to re-create our own NoVES logo:
Through this activity we learned about some unique passions (coding, aviation, Korean culture, and baking) and some shared interests (math!)
I loved getting to reconnect with the kids through this activity and it was a great way to welcome a new friend to the group. We talked about our hopes for the upcoming year (fun topped the list) and got excited to begin our classes this week.
This week, regular classes begin! In Comparative Religion, the students will start out with an introduction to Ethical Culture. This will serve as a point of comparison to true back to through the year.
Our younger kids in Every Day is Earth Day will practice recycling by making toilet paper roll monsters — a craft (loudly and emphatically) requested by one of the students!
See you Sunday!
Over the past few weeks, my Facebook feed has been full of big smiles and even bigger backpacks as kids head back to school. I’m feeling similar excitement about the return of our Sunday Platform! While we’ve stayed connected all summer through Sunday School meetups, Happy Hours at House 6 Brewery, Zoom chats, and our Labor Day Picnic, I’m looking forward to the routine of coming to Green Hedges on Sunday morning to see old friends and make new ones.
Of course, I’m also looking forward to returning to the routine of reading a book together and then sending the kids off to Sunday School. This week, we’ll focus on returning together as a group and re-grounding ourselves through a collaborative art project. I can’t wait to show off what the kids create!
Starting with our September 18 platform, we’ll begin our classes for the year. More on that next week, but in the meantime I’d like to thank our volunteer teachers! Iris Woodward and Elham Hassen will be teaching Comparative Religion, and Jim Ball will be helping me teach the little ones environmental stewardship in Every Day is Earth Day!
See you on Sunday!
Hello! I'm Kristen, your new Director of Ethical Education (DEE)! I'm thrilled to be here to help manage our Sunday School program and support our community.
My goal as DEE is to build on Kimberly’s amazing work over the years to start the next generation on their journey to choose—and practice—ethical living.I see two critical activities in this goal. We need to teach kids, and we need to support parents.
I see two critical activities in this goal. We need to teach kids, and we need to support parents.
In the Fall, we’re planning to offer two courses — Every Day is Earth Day and Comparative Religion. We know it’s going to be a transitional year and, although we’d love to see every family every Sunday, we’re all figuring out what our new lives integrated into society, both Ethical and broader, look like. For me and others that’s included some fits and starts. Every Day is Earth Day gives us an opportunity to have something for kids to do that doesn’t build on the previous week’s curriculum or require a certain number of kids to be effective.
While we chose Every Day is Earth Day to be low-key, we chose Comparative Religion to respond to what our parents and kids need this year. We’ll get to that in a moment, but first I have my first ask for you all:
If you’d like to teach any of these curricula next year, please reach out to me at email@example.com.
The second thing that I’m focusing on this year is providing support for parents. This is a hard time to be a parent, and I know that because I’m a parent and it’s hard. The news is hard, finding like-minded parents with kids who you want your kid to learn from is hard, parenting in a pandemic is hard. It’s all hard.
I want to provide programs that support parents, regardless of whether their kids are able to or want to attend Sunday School. We’re working on that through the summer with monthly meetups. We’re holding one on June 25 at Cox Farms and another on July 30. I’d also like to create an online community for parents and maybe hold some discussion groups.
These ideas are based solely on the things that I would want. I want to go to Cox Farms and see friends so that I can talk to other adults while my daughter, Josie, plays and feeds goats. I’d love a local online discussion group where I can go to ask questions or get advice about raising ethical children. I’d love a Zoom chat where I don’t have to leave my house but I can see some friends and chat or learn something new. However, that’s me and I’m building this community for all of us — not just me. So here’s my second ask:
Tell me what you want out of this community. You can send me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re willing to grab coffee, either virtually or in person, let me know and we’ll set something up!
Thank you all for having me and for letting me do this work. And thank you to Kimberly, who helped make me feel like part of this community, has helped form and strengthen the connections between our NoVES families, and has been an incredible guide to this role. I’m so grateful for her guidance and for all of the incredible thought and work that she’s put into building this community.
Summer is winding down and kids all over Northern Virginia have returned to school. That means that NOVES Sunday School Classes will be resuming soon too! Sunday, September 8th is our first Platform of the 2019/2020 School Year. WE HOPE YOU CAN JOIN US!
If you are new to the Northern Virginia Ethical Society or you haven’t visited in awhile, you may be wondering what kids do on Sunday morning? Our mission as a school community is to promote ethical behavior through educational experiences, including and social activism, so that students will become good world citizens. Children are in the main room for opening words, music and a Story For All Ages. Then the Sunday School heads to the classrooms to begin their lessons.
This year, younger children will be taking a class Called “Everyday is Earth Day”. This class uses experiments, crafts and hands-on activities to teach that every day is a day to think about taking care of our Earth. In this class children learn about conserving energy, how all creatures serve a purpose on Earth, reducing & recycling, and the frailty of ecosystems.
Students in 5th grade and up will be taking a 2 part class that hopes to educate them to make informed and reasonable decisions called “Media Literacy/Ethical Conundrums”. Our pre-teens are exposed to all kinds of messages coming from media outlets, advertisers and peers. This class helps them become more able to analyze the veracity of those messages, as well as the intentions of the creators of the messages. It also gives them a chance to discuss and role play how they would ethically handle a difficult situation involving peer pressure and social media.
In addition to classes, we undertake one group service project per month. This year, we will be learning about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in conjunction with our service projects. These Service Lessons aim to teach our children how to recognize and differentiate levels of need. We can only “act so as the elicit the best in others” by taking the time to meet an individual at their level of emotional development. Children will get to participate in 5 projects that exemplify the 5 individual levels of the Needs Pyramid. We will be making lunches for the Embry Rucker Homeless Shelter, Trick or Treating for our Troops thru Operation Gratitude, raising money to fund a school in Africa thru the sale of hand drawn class valentines, and collecting old markers for Crayola Recycling from now until Earth Day We are also expanding our service program to include a monthly volunteer Sunday School Clean Up Crew. Students will be responsible for platform breakdown, cleanup and trash removal on the last platform of every month.
I also have plans to get our creative juices flowing again this year! The NOVES Puppeteers will be performing Stone Soup at The Stone Salad festival in November. And the students will be performing some musical selections for the society again on Darwin Day in February.
I hope that you are all as excited about the upcoming year as I am. Our children learn invaluable skills and lessons at NOVES. And they build strong friendships and supportive peer groups. If you have any questions about our Ethical Education here at Northern Virginia Ethical Society, please contact me at DEE@noves.org and I will be happy to assist you.
SEE YOU SUNDAY!