Director of Ethical Education Blog
The NOVES year has come to an end and we are on Summer Break until September. Our last Sunday, June 17th , was Recognition Sunday. The excellent Sunday School teachers and Sunday School committee members were thanked for their service to the NOVES kids this year. They had to work very hard without a DEE for 5 months and they deserve our gratitude! The children present on June 17th gathered on the playground for an informal outdoor origami session and said goodbye to their classmates for the Summer.
Our last Service Project was executed on Sunday June 10th . The book read that Sunday was a story about a tiny spy who called herself “006 and a Bit”. The story was written by Kes Gray and described some of the things required to be a successful secret spy. The children then gathered in the main classroom and I played “Try a Little Kindness” by Glen Campbell on guitar. I asked them think about how we could combine kindness with being spies as we watched a video by the Kid President. In the video he describes how easy it is to change the world by spreading kindness. He says, “If one person is filled with love and they live it out then it will go on and on and on. The world is changed by ordinary people, Little people living out Big Love”. What a great message! You can view the video here: https://youtu.be/4z7gDsSKUmU
Now that I had them thinking, I assigned them their SUMMER UNDERCOVER SECRET KINDNESS MISSION. The idea is that over the Summer Break, they will be in the Secret Service and their Mission (should they choose to accept it!) is to serve others without being asked and without their knowledge. When each mission is completed, they are to leave a Secret Service Calling Card and track their progress on their Mission Sheet. When we gather back together in September, we will share stories of our successful undercover missions with the other Sunday School SPIES!
To kick off the spirit of performing Random Acts of Kindness, we did 2 clandestine missions together before class was dismissed. First, we left some Clorox Wipes as gifts to the 2 teachers whose classrooms we have used all year. All the students signed the White Boards like a big Thank You card. Then we crawled under the windows to the auditorium and snuck out into the parking lot. Once there, we left sunny yellow and white flowers all over the cars of the society members with a tag that that read “Please enjoy this Random Act of Kindness. Now its your turn to pay it forward, do something kind and leave this card behind” If you received a flower and decided to pay it forward in some way, please share that with me so that I can inform the children of how the love they chose to live out is going on and on and on!
Remember, “ the world is changed by ordinary people, Little people living out Big Love”. So give out Big Love all Summer long and make the world a better place for all of us! See you in the Fall!
This Sunday, the children learned about the Kindness Rocks Project. The concept is simple, to cultivate connections within communities and lift others up through simple acts of kindness. Rocks with positive messages are left for others to find, because one message at the right time can change your whole outlook. You can learn more about the project here: https://www.thekindnessrocksproject.com/
We began the day by reading the book, “What Does it Mean to Be Kind” by Rana DiOrio which described many ways to show unexpected kindness to others. The children then shared examples of when they did something kind for someone else in their own lives. We watched a video describing the Kindness Rocks Project and then kids got busy painting!
There was plenty of enthusiasm on behalf of the kids for this Service Project and resultantly, the students painted many rocks each. We all took a walk together to the Green Hedges Sensory Garden where there is a pond already surrounded by brightly painted rocks. We hid some of our rocks there, hoping it may brighten the day of the students who attend school at Green Hedges. We are so very appreciative that they rent us the use of their space for our school!
Please check the corresponding Facebook post for pictures of this exciting project! And please, consider painting your own rocks to hide for others to find!
Yesterday, I delivered my first Sunday platform address at NOVES entitled, “The Children Are Our Future”. I shared my ideas on how we can raise a generation of children that will make this world a better place and stand up for what they believe is right. I personally came to the Ethical Society to be inspired and educated on ways that I can live a more ethical life. To be reminded weekly of how to model the kind of behavior I want my children to exhibit in their own lives. I’m really honored to have the opportunity and the platform that comes along with being your DEE. The ability to plan classes, schedule activities, arrange acts of service and foster an environment where we can all grow in body and spirit. Where we learn to lift each other up. Where we stand up for others and the causes we believe in. Where we practice our Ethical Values in our every day lives.
I started by thanking our hardworking and patient teachers. Our teachers make certain that their lessons reinforce our beliefs and that the ideas they present keep our Ethical Core Values as their primary focus. And I thanked our awesome NOVES Sunday School Committee, who have kept the Sunday School going without a DEE for 6 months. They made sure the program was jam-packed with great activities, staffed by excellent teachers and organized administratively, to ensure that our kids received the best Sunday School experience possible.
Our Sunday school program puts exemplifying our Ethical Core Values at the forefront of our curriculum. Our classes this year have been focused on LIFE: where life begins, how life is created and what makes life is sustainable. Next year, our focus is going to be on WORLD RELIGIONS. How better to put into practice the values that we aspire to teach here at the Ethical Society than by studying the variety of philosophical opinions held around the globe and the myriad of belief systems that different world cultures practice in their daily lives. We endeavor to honor the diversity of cultural traditions and the commonality of the human condition. I further explained that our Children's Story Committee supports our Sunday School efforts by picking books that take the general message of that Sunday’s adult platform topic and putting it in a simpler format that the children can more easily relate to and understand. They also try to respect diversity and be cognizant of representing all races, religions, and a variety of protagonists in the stories they choose to present.
My own children are in the program and it’s very important to me that they observe me practicing what I preach about Ethical Culture's motto of “Deed Before Creed”. It is in this spirit that I am planning to add some new and different service projects to our repertoire next year. Our children are involved in at least one act of service every month and I have decided to focus on charities that directly affect our children's peers – other children in our community.
“We learn empathy through our service to one another because empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another.” Alfred Adler
In conclusion, I came to NOVES because I was looking to be a part of a community that stood for something greater than themselves, greater than a sense of winning, greater than fanaticism. A place where I could join like-minded individuals in work that betters our world. I am proud to put my energy into activities that aspire to make the world a better place for our future generations, for my children's generation. Because I truly believe that the children are our future. Because I truly believe that we are what we repeatedly do. We have the collective power to raise intelligent, empathetic, kind and fair future leaders, who will greet the world with open hearts and open minds and leave a legacy of ethical impact for future generations to come.
Several members approached me after my talk to volunteer their time and their talent to contribute to the the overall success of the Sunday School. I will be in touch and I will attempt to utilize everything you have offered! Thank you all for your continued support!
The Children Are Our Future, lets continue to pave the way for them to make a difference.
“We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads, and along these fibers, our actions run as causes and return to us as results”
I am in possession of an artist's heart. I find it hard to even get dressed in the morning without expressing my individuality and mood thru my outfit choice. I arrange the food on my plate as if it were a painting and parent like a sculptor, trying to mold the raw clay into a something beautiful and unique. My favorite medium is fiber. I will weave yarn into clothing, reeds into baskets, and guitar strings into melodies. As I sat in attendance at the Spring Festival this weekend, my mind kept thinking of the word INTERCONNECTION. Everything that I was observing reminded me of Herman Melville's quote that states our lives are all connected and what energy we send out into the world comes back to us. The energy at Sunday's Spring Festival could not have been more positive. The theme was CREATIVITY and our society connects us with many talented members who exhibited their creative spirit for everyone to enjoy.
Several individuals displayed their art and spoke of its personal significance. It takes courage to get in front of a crowd and share something so deeply personal. But with great risk comes great reward and we all grow closer to one other in the moments when we are vulnerable. When we are willing to dance, sing, speak, read and share in front of a crowd. Our society is filled with wonderful people who could not be more supportive and encouraging towards our members young and old who are willing to put themselves out there. Our society connects us to people who will join together to show fellowship and acceptance to one another.
Our unique geographical location affords us the opportunity to make a wide impact with our good deeds. Spring Festival marked the culmination of a Youth-led Conservation Service Project. We raffled off the milkweed seeds that were planted and nurtured by our Sunday School students over the past 3 weeks. The Sunday School learned in class about how we are interconnected to our environment. They discussed what is causing the decimation of pollinating insects and how its effects will be felt at our kitchen tables when we no longer have certain foods available to eat. Six lucky winners were able to take home a milkweed seedling from the festival to plant in their yard in order to assist in habitat restoration for our insect pollinators. Because our members live across several states in the Mid-Atlantic region, our conservation efforts can reach far and wide. Our society connects us to people who share our passion for taking care of our planet and all of its inhabitants.
Tradition also weaves our lives together. And Sunday's March of the Turtles and Snails was a prime example of this. Children in the Special Places class are taught a hands-on curriculum that explores basic needs, comfort, homes, and community. The class is taught through stories and the building of various homes. One of those homes are the shells of turtles and snails and the children get very excited about building their own cardboard shells and performing a small skit for the society. Especially touching this year was that two graduates of the Sunday School program were in attendance and shared their own happy memories of when they took this class and marched across the stage to Raffi's song “Slow Day”. Our society connects us to people who help us mark the passage of time thru the traditions we share.
This society connects us and I am so blessed to be a member of a diverse group of individuals that come together for fellowship, social action, community and expression.
Spring is Coming! Daylight Savings Time went into effect last Sunday and the sun stays up longer in the evenings. My daffodils are blooming and the trees are budding. The robins with their big red, round & egg laiden bellys are gathering worms and building their nests. The whole world is preparing to awaken from its winter slumber. I love this time of year because it's so exciting to see everything “Spring” to life! This seasonal change is what inspired two of our youth to plan a Butterfly Conservation project for the Sunday School this March.
Please see below a Guest Blog from NoVES teens, Ananda Kalukin & Noah Crook:
Spring is fast approaching, and so are the millions of pollinators that call our region home at this time of year. These pollinators are responsible for feeding the world through pollination, and are integral parts of every ecosystem. However, many of these pollinators are dying off and it is critical that humanity prevents them from going extinct. We decided to come up with a Sunday School project in keeping with this time of growth and that would help, in some small way, these imperiled pollinators.
On March 18th, the students of the NoVES Sunday School will participate in a planting session. Each student will plant pollinator-friendly seeds in a pot, and then take the pot home. They will then raise the seeds until April 8th.
At Spring Festival, on April 8th, the students will bring back the seedlings and we will raffle them off to lucky NoVES attendees! If you receive seedlings, plant them outdoors so pollinators will have access to them.
With the help of an Ethical Society member, we have also chosen the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy for our charitable contribution. The LWC leads field trips and programs to educate people about conservation. They also provide citizen science data to various organizations to keep track of the health of Loudoun County Wildlife. The organization also participates in habitat restoration projects.
We will be supporting The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy through the Sharing of Responsibility at Spring Festival. Learn more about this organization's work here: https://loudounwildlife.org/habitat-restoration/bringing-back-monarch/
Tomorrow marks my 1st month on the job as your Director of Ethical Education. This month I have been settling into the rhythm of things. Remembering to lock the classroom doors, creating email distribution lists, brainstorming ideas and collecting some fresh paperwork from our Sunday School parents. I also took a day to visit our gone but never forgotten previous DEE and current member, Melissa Sinclair. Melissa and I had lunch and the Washington Ethical Society allowed me to sit in on some of their internal staff meetings. I guess you could say, my feet are officially wet!
In addition to the administrative side of this position, I will be scheduling some future events and workshops for our society families. Most imminent, I have arranged a group rate for us to attend the Cirque Du Soleil LUZIA show in Tysons Corner on May 6th. You can register to attend here: https://noves.org/event-2845795 Further into the future, I have been in contact with Rachel Bailey, a local parenting expert whose web class Tom and I took a couple of years ago. I found her program to be be exactly what our family needed and her approach was one of loving, self-esteem building guidance for our children, as opposed to shaming, yelling & corporal punishment. Her tactics are framed for the parent-child relationship, but her tools and tricks can help you navigate spousal relationships, grandparent-grandchild relationships, even platonic friendships. As I explained to her, “Rachel, you taught me how to make my son FEEL loved, not just BE loved” She has agreed to give a platform to NOVES in the beginning of our 2018-2019 society year and will follow it up with a 90 minute in-depth Saturday workshop. I am looking to assemble a team to pull off this large Adult Education class. If you are interested, please contact me or Jaime Argandona directly. I am hoping to take our assembled committee to see one of her other talks in the county this Spring before we begin to plan our own Fall Workshop. Please peruse her website and reach out to me if you can help. http://rachel-bailey.com/about/
Finally, I am pleased to report that our Sunday School Acts of Service are in full swing. After we completed the Kakenya's Valentine Project in early February, we moved onto holding a small Orange Ribbon Party for the Love Your Neighbor Campaign. The platform that Sunday was entitled, “What Being an American Means to Me”. We also had a new student join our Sunday School program that day who moved here all the way from Puerto Rico! Welcome to NOVES Amalia!! To reinforce the message of inclusion and acceptance to people of every race, creed, lifestyle and ability, our kids spent a few minutes before their classes making orange ribbons to tie on their mailboxes and wear on their shirts as a visual symbol of unity and equality. A table was set up after platform for the adult members to participate in the party too! If you wish to learn more about this grassroots movement, join me at an event this Monday, March 5th in Leesburg, VA. Congr. Barbara Comstock and Atty. Gen. Mark Herring will be speaking. The event details can be found here: https://noves.org/event-2845622 The Sunday School Service Project for March has been placed in the hands of two of our teen youth. They have come up with a great concept and I will be sharing more details in a future blog post. Also, mark your calendars because our annual Stream Cleanup at the Ballanderson's is scheduled for April 22nd. Our NOVES kids are exemplifying the message of Deed Before Creed this Spring!
Stay Tuned to this blog for more updates on what is happening with the youth of the Northern Virginia Ethical Society.
I'd like to begin this post by taking a moment to thank everyone in our NOVES family for their voracious support of my hiring as the new Director of Ethical Education. I have received so many words of encouragement, congratulations and validation since the announcement was made at Winter Festival. Many of you took the time to personally congratulate me face to face, via email and by telephone. Your collective enthusiasm inspires me to do my very best for our kids!
My first official task as the DEE was to undertake the the Sunday School Service Project for February by creating and selling Valentines to benefit the Kakenya Center for Excellence. This project has been a tradition at NOVES for several years. Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya has previously spoken at NOVES about her dream and hopefully she will join us again in the future to share how she is seeing her dream become a reality. You can learn more about this organization here: https://www.kakenyasdream.org/our-work/
Step one in executing this service project was to have the kids create the art needed for the Valentines. After watching a video on the KCE and discussing the students thoughts and reactions, everyone settled down to draw. However, unbeknownst to me, there was a hidden gift awaiting me that day. I asked the children if they would like some background music and the room was unanimous: “only if its Imagine Dragons!” As I sat back and watched them work, they all began to softly sing together. Little voices lilting across the room and singing a song about believing in yourself and trusting that adversity makes you stronger. I will always smile to myself when I remember my “first day on the job” and being serenaded by the children of NOVES! The positivity of that day permeated the entire project. The members of NOVES were generous in their support of this service project and the Sunday School Valentines sale raised $228.00 for its charity. In addition, $332.00 was collected during the Sharing of Responsibility, bringing the total to $560.00 dollars raised for Kakenya's school!
I would like to close my first blog entry by thanking all of the people who have kept the Sunday School thriving despite not having a Director in place. Our teachers Iris, Heather W, Patrick, Julien, Kelly and Jaime are engaging and educating our kids every week. And the Sunday School Committee has kept this ship on course for over 6 months without a Captain! Thank you Heather W, Heather M, Marian, Jeff, and Randy.