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Northern Virginia Ethical Society (NoVES)

Director of Ethical Education Blog

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  • Friday, September 30, 2022 10:29 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    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.

  • Saturday, September 24, 2022 11:42 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    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:

    • In Comparative Religion, Iris and Elham will continue the conversation that they started last week about religion. This week, kids will get more hands-on by researching different religions to create a framework of understanding.
    • Every Day is Earth Day will be taking a break this week while Josie and I search for dolphins and other sea creatures!
  • Saturday, September 17, 2022 9:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    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:

    • I am…
    • I show kindness by…
    • I feel hopeful when…
    • I love…

    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.

    Coming Up

    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!

  • Friday, September 09, 2022 7:35 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    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!

  • Thursday, June 16, 2022 10:18 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    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

    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 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.

  • Wednesday, September 04, 2019 2:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    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 and I will be happy to assist you.


  • Friday, May 03, 2019 3:20 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    One of my jobs as your Director of Ethical Education is to facilitate the Monthly Sunday School service projects.  Ethical Culture’s motto of “Deed Before Creed” is a simple but impactful philosophy.  But how can we make our kids understand WHY we choose to serve? 

    To tackle this challenge I added something new to Service Sundays, a theme!  This year I chose the theme of Gratitude.  Prior to executing each monthly service project, I taught the kids a mini-gratitude lesson.  Just a quick 5 minutes where students learned to be on the lookout for the 3 components of gratitude.   The message is that once we learn to recognize gratitude and what it feels like to be grateful, we can begin to work at practicing gratitude thru our own words and actions.  Ultimately, we can pay forward the feeling of gratitude thru our service to others.  During my platform talk on March, 17th, I went over the service projects to date and their concurrent gratitude lessons in great detail.  And I also discussed the scientific research regarding how gratitude can make you healthier happier and improve the quality and length of your life.
    If you were unable to attend the talk, you can access the full video here:  Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude  

    As a culmination to my mini Gratitude lessons for the kids and my platform talk on Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude, I collaborated on an Art of Giving Workshop with Allison Gallagher of Touching Heart.  Mrs. Gallagher is the outreach director for this local non-profit organization.  She gave us a platform talk about real needs in our community and encouraged us to enable our youth to come up with creative solutions to these social problems.  After her talk, everyone got involved in assembling fleece blankets for Fairfax Foster Care.  I will post pictures of our finished donations on our Facebook page.

    This school year is almost over and we only have 2 Service Sundays left.  I've already been thinking about what next years theme will be.  And I wondered, "how can I teach our kids to know WHAT makes service effective?"  I've decided that next year we will study Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.  Another motto of Ethical Culture is to "Act so as to bring out the best in others, and therby yourself"  But in order to act in a way that impacts the recipient, you must be in tune with what their actual needs are.  By studying the pyramid of needs, we can learn to be deliberate in our choices.  What is best for us, may not be best for everyone.  We can learn to discern the right balance between bringing out the best in another and  expecting them to join us on our same level of the need pyramid.  Each month we will study one of the 5 levels of need and execute a concurrent service project: physiological needs, safety needs, belonging & love needs, esteem needs and self-actualization.  I will be taking Mrs. Gallagher's advice and asking our fearless and intelligent kids to come up creative solutions to social problems in each need category.  I look forward to sharing our progress with you.

  • Monday, January 07, 2019 7:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The calendar year may have come to an end, but our school year is in full swing!  Since NOVES reconvened in September, our Sunday School teachers have been tackling the daunting task of teaching the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam in just a few short months.  In the New Year, our curriculum will focus on the Dharmic religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. These religions share the same three foundational doctrines: 1 - the Karma principle, 2 - Re-birth or Reincarnations and 3 - Nirvana. The Sunday School team has set a goal to tour 6 different Houses of Worship this year as part of our curriculum and we are on track to meet that goal!

    Our first tour was of the Temple Beth Torah in Chantilly, VA.  We learned about what young Jewish children do in Sunday school to prepare for their coming of age ceremony at age 13.  We listened as the Cantor led them in singing their prayers in Hebrew and we even joined in.  We got to hear them blow the Shofar, view the ceremonial Torah and ask the Rabbi questions.  He made a clear parallel between Judasim’s and Ethical Culture’s values when he explained that being Jewish means not focusing on the afterlife or any future rewards.  The only thing that really matters is that you do good work in this life on Earth.

    Our Second Tour was of a local Mosque called the ADAMS Center in Sterling, VA.  Our guide talked to us about what it means to identify as a Muslim in America and filled us in on the multitude of community services that the ADAMS Center provides.  They offer mental health services, food assistance, Sunday school, tutoring, career training, and interfaith initiatives throughout the Metro area. All of their funding comes from their members and they do not receive any funds from foreign countries.  We toured their 3-story building replete with administration offices, a large worship area, a gymnasium, classrooms, community meeting rooms and bathrooms with ceremonial foot washing stations.  Young Muslim children are taught the ideology of Islam in Sunday School including how to read Quranic Arabic.  They stressed a shared value with Ethical Culture in their desire to serve their community by working cooperatively with people of all faiths toward the common good.

    We invited the entire Society to join us on our third House of Worship tour.  We reserved 35 seats at a Holy Eucharist at the National Cathedral.  On the last Sunday of Advent, we were allowed to explore and photograph the beautiful carvings, stained glass and Neo-Gothic architecture of the second largest church building in the United States.  We were treated to the cathedral choirs, congregational hymns, a sermon, scripture readings and an opportunity to partake in communion. They even allowed 3 NOVES children to carry the water and wine to the priests to be blessed. It was a great opportunity to see the ritual and sacraments of Christianity. The National Cathedral is a true treasure.  In addition to carvings representing the many faces of America, the main hall flies the flag of every state, and the chapel is filled with needlepoint pillows sewn in honor of numerous American heroes, presidents, scientists and artists.  Not to be forgotten is the spectacular Moon Window. Sealed between tempered glass in an inert nitrogen environment is a 2 3/8” piece of basalt collected on the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. It is the only moon rock given by NASA to a non-governmental institution. I encourage you to stop by the next time you are sightseeing in NW DC.

    Our littlest NOVES members are busy in the Holiday and Holy Days class learning about the Abrahamic religions too.  They began the year with lessons on the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and the late harvest festival of Sukkot.  The learned about Islam as they studied Mawlid Al Nabi, better know as Muhammed’s birthday.  And they dove into Christianity during the Christmas season discussing many holiday traditions like the Sundays of Advent, including St. Lucy’s day.  St. Lucy was a 3rd century martyr who wore a wreath lit with candles on her head as she filled her arms with food and supplies for the persecuted Christians hiding in the catacombs.  These children even have a head start on the Dharmic religions because they already covered Dasara and Diwali, Hindu holidays that fall in late Autumn.  One thing that is similar about all of the holy days observed as the Winter Solstice approaches is the celebration of light and the comfort of family and fellowship.  I think that it is easy see the commonality they share with our own Ethical Culture Winter Festival to be held next week.  I look forward to enjoying the comfort of your fellowship on Sunday!

    Please take a moment to view the House of Worship Tours photo album that I have created on our Facebook page to see all the wonderful experiences I have described above.  And stay tuned to my blog for an update at the end of the year on the final 3 tours and the Spring holidays we have covered in class.

  • Monday, October 29, 2018 6:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    What do Ethical Culturalists believe?  What do they teach their children?  “Ethical Humanism, also called Ethical Culture, is an evolving body of ideas that inspires Ethical Societies.  Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.  For Ethical Humanists, the ultimate religious questions are not about the existence of gods or an afterlife, but rather, ‘How can we create meaningfulness in this life?’ and ‘How should we treat each other?’  Ethical Culture is clear about the essential role that ethical principles play in human relationships.  In order for human beings to have good lives, love must prevail, truth must be respected, honesty esteemed, justice secured and freedom protected.  Learning how to realize these ideals in our lives is the purpose of Ethical Societies” * 

    The Comparative Religion class is about to begin the 1st of several House of Worship Tours on November 11th at 11 am at Temple Beth Torah in Chantilly, VA.  Your Sunday School Team wanted to schedule a special event to reiterate our 12 Core Ethical Values and our expectations of the student’s behavior and respectful demeanor on these tours.  We want our students to act as ambassadors of Ethical Culture and its core values as they are welcomed as guests into other local religious communities.   To accomplish this goal, we decided to ask our leader, Randy Best, to meet with the children to deliver this message.  This special class took place on October 21st and we had 14 students in attendance.  One of the most important core values of Ethical Culture is to treat others fairly and kindly and it is especially important when interacting with those who are different from us.  Specifically to "act so as to elicit the best in others and thereby ourselves"  Felix Adler.  As Randy stated in the class, this is a universal moral philosophy that is shared by all world religions and ethical philosophies. 

    Christianity: All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye so to them  Matthew 7:1

    Confucianism: Do not do to others what you would not like yourself Analects 12:2

    Buddhism:  Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful Udana-Varga 5,1

    Hinduism:  This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you Mahabharata 5,1517

    Islam: No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself Sunnah

    Judaism:  What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellowman.  Talmud, Shabbat 3id

    Taoism:  Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain and loss as your loss Tai Shang Kan Yin P’ien

    Zoroastrianism:  That nature alone is good which refrains from doing another whatsoever is not good for itself Dadisten-I-dinik, 94,5

    With the numerous hate crimes in the news just this past week, it is more important than ever to be vigilant about raising kind, considerate, tolerant, fair and open-minded children.  Children, who know that it is their inherent right to question the world around them and to choose what they believe.  Young adults, who will continue the work of creating a world full of peace and justice.  Teens, who will cherish the Earth and all life upon it.  Future leaders, who will learn from all of the unique individuals that cross their path and from world history to create a better future for us all.  Young adults, who will strive to live out their Ethical Culture Values and accept responsibility for their choices and actions. 

    Ethical Humanism is a religion of relationships. Ethical Sunday School allows children “of all ages to engage in ethical concepts and experiences that promote lifelong ethical development.”  Our goal this year is to foster relationships within the diverse Northern Virginia Religious Community.  To give our children an opportunity to learn about different theologies and meet real people who practice these faiths, with an emphasis on what we have in common instead of that which divides us.  

    Join us on Sunday and we can undertake this goal together!

    *taken from 

  • Wednesday, October 03, 2018 1:11 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The NoVES Sunday School now has 1 month under their belts. Attendance and participation have been very high! Students have already had 2 classes this month and are focusing on the Abrahamic religions and Jewish holidays. Children have also participated in a collaborative art piece that helped kick off the year and facilitate getting to know one another better. We have undertaken our 1st Service Project of the school year and have solicited sock donations for our 2nd Service Project, a National Sock Drive called Socktober.

    On our first Sunday back to Sunday School, we undertook a joint creative effort to make a visual art piece for the society. This puzzle mural was displayed at platform for the 1st time this past Sunday, September 30th . This year's mural theme was “Individually Unique....Together Complete”. It endeavors to illustrate how even though we are all unique individuals that have different interests, strengths and hobbies, we are stronger and more beautiful when we join together and collaborate. Collectively, we can make a difference! Our Sunday School Teaching Team had already created their personal puzzle pieces at our Summer Teacher Orientation Meeting. They used their puzzle pieces as a way to introduce themselves to their new students. Did you know that our teachers this year are artists, crafters, jokesters, conservationists and science fiction buffs? The students enthusiastically worked on their respective puzzle pieces, staying in the classroom long past dismissal time to make their pieces perfect. Please check out the mural photos on our Facebook page or attend our upcoming workshop or some of our Annual Festivals to see the mural in person. Ask a child or a teacher to show you their piece and to tell you what it says about their unique personality!

    In addition to the unveiling of the mural this past Sunday, the students also performed a choral piece entitled “You Gotta Be” by Des'Ree. They have been practicing diligently before Sunday School Classes and at home. It was a “bucket-filling” performance exclaimed our guest speaker, Rachel Bailey! The children showed a lot of courage and dedication to this task and if you get a chance, be sure to fill their buckets with some well deserved praise for a job well done!

    I have planned to teach our Sunday School students some mini Gratitude Lessons prior to the first few Service Projects of the year. This is in an effort to demonstrate to our students about WHY we perform acts of service and HOW we choose whom to serve in our communities. Our first Mini Lesson and Service Project were both carried out on September 23rd and it was a huge success! Donated materials and stamps were used to make cards for use by our Caring Committee throughout the year. So keep your eyes peeled Society Members, because little envelopes filled with a child's imagination and heartfelt wishes may be coming to a mailbox near you!

    The first month back to school has exceeded my expectations! I could not be happier with the students, our teaching team, the support of the Society and our class content. It is going to be a great year at the Northern Virginia Ethical Society.  It's never too late to join us in seeking to create a more humane world together. Contact me at to enroll your student in our program today or to schedule a visit on Sunday!

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