Art as Activism by childgrower A. Woz.

November 14, 2009 Madison, WI– ProjectGirl kicked off a curriculum training class at Edgewood Campus, on Saturday November 14 by sharing the startling statistic that marketers are targeting children from as young as six months old – and at the cost of 15 billion dollars-to inundate children with more than one thousand media images per day.

In the audience today is Jaedyn Wozniak, 11, from rural Verona and her friend Christina Wright, from Oregon. As art loving girls, they are looking forward to creating some art and working with some of the older high school girls serving as project mentors.  Also in the room are a team of high schoolers from Waunakee who want to start their own chapter.

Several of the girls who designed the original curriculum four years ago are featured in the opening video and are attending today to answer questions and encourage new leaders to start program in their communities.

The goal today is to orient young women to the ProjectArt curriculum and “bring together independent thinkers across the country to un-do the negative effects of commercial media manipulation and liberate girls from the oppressive grip of harmful media messages.”

Established in four states and rapidly progressing around the country, the workshops mobilize a movement of young women to form peer groups, to bust negative media advertising messages. Schools are purchasing the curriculum and running the workshops through school art classes and offering ProjectGirl in after school programs.

Instructors Jane Bartell and Kelly Snider warned all the participants that they would leave the four hour training, “changed in some way, and hopefully a little bit angry.” Her hope is that girls use art to support each other and widen their definition of themselves and what they really care about- and she believes they care about more than shopping.

Snider, who is the artist behind ProjectGirl encourages the audience of about 50 young girls, ages middle school to high school, to deconstruct the hidden messages in advertising and become media literate so they cannot be manipulated.

ProjectGirl’s goal is to create awareness so girls can recognize the media influences in their lives and reject those that are damaging to their self-image and their self-esteem.

Jane Bartell, a journalist and media expert for the ProjectGirl team, tells the parents, “If we don’t educate our kids to media, our media will educate our kids.” Bartell shares how much has changed in the last twenty years. Media advertising is so prevalent that it has redefined cultural norms of what girls (and boys) should look like, act like, aspire to be and how much they need to consumer to achieve their goals.

Bartell shares how the deregulation of advertising allowed marketing to be aimed at children. This blast of influence to harness the the increasingly large amount of children’s available spending dollars has led marketers to target and exploit the most vulnerable members of society. And they don’t even know that it is happening.

Bartell reports brand strengthening images are so effective that babies as young as six months old can recognize the McDonald’s arches.

Next Bartell asks the girls to seek out the rat, to find what stinks about the false message in advertising. Is it the exploitation of certain body parts? Is it the unrealistic promises? Is it the way girls are portrayed as vulnerable, weak and in need of rescue?

ProjectGirl asks girls to wake up and reject the pressure to consumers and find new ways to have fun. ProjectGirl believes art is that place; art is a wonderful place for girls to define their own image of themselves.

As the group is lead through another teaching moment, middle school students Wozniak and Wright are tearing images out of magazines and identifying those false promises and creating a collage. Then they present their piece to an audience of peers and reject the stereotypes of the media that surrounds them every second of every day.

In the few minutes it takes the girls to create the collage they are transformed.

Applying their new education to the magazine medium, they quickly see the perfect airbrushed bodies, violent imagery, and demeaning poses that models assume for magazine layouts. They repeatedly ask, “Would this scene ever happen in real life?”

ProjectGirl wakes up young girls by giving them the tools to identify the marketing strategies behind the ads and asks them to think critically as consumers of internet, radio, television.

Demonstrating this point, Bartell and Snider show a video they made from combining the slogans of old ad campaigns to expose the ridiculous claims that marketers have used to sell products to teen buyers.

In the final stage of a ProjectGirl curriculum, the art projects created in ProjectGirl workshops become a gallery exhibit that is used to reach out to the community by creating an opportunity for the girls to share their work and share their strengths and show they don’t need to buy things, but can love themselves just the way they are.  Girls pass along the message through art by featuring self-portraits showcasing each girl’s interests and celebrating each young persons unique hobbies and talents.

ProjectGirl is going nationwide. The curriculum is inexpensive, the rewards priceless. Visit ProjectGirl.org and let the art of the next generation of media consumers tell the story. Better yet, register a daughter or a granddaughter for a ProjectGirl workshop in your area.

### Annita Woz for ChildGrower Blog November 23, 2009.

Talking Back is Good? by childgrower A. Woz.

The study asks,

“Are certain parenting techniques, like using commands, short-circuiting brain development?”

I’m reading this story in Newsweek, November 2009, by Tony Dokoupil about  the preliminary results of a new study published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal.  Tracking more than 8,000 children, the  findings suggest that regardless of socioeconomic background, small differences in communication style can have an impact on children.

Evidently, “Mothers and fathers who mainly talk to their offspring using commands rather than reasoning, often get their kids to do what they want, but they may also be short-circuiting brain development.”

What!? Arguing with mom and dad is a good thing?

I put down the Newsweek article and put  some thought into my parenting style for a bit.

I grew up on the standard, “Children should be seen and not heard,” and the all applicable classic, “Because I said so.”

The exasperated look on the faces of relatives when I calmly, and repeatedly told my first born at a holiday gathering,  “The fireplace is hot. Step back!” instead of just yelling, “No!”, or maybe slapping her hand away or worse, letting her touch it once to learn the hard way, should have been captured by National Geographic.

I was full of grand and kinder gentler ways of setting limits.

Imagine this first time mom, determined to have a compliant child, embarking on my first of many grand ideas. Thinking that if I could only avoid introducing the word “no” and instead use the words, “Not for you!” I believed I’d never get a defiant head shake and the unwavering “No!” when I asked mine to follow an order.

Oh new moms- we are so funny.

While my avoidance of one word didn’t hurt – my children just figured out how to say no in different ways and at different decibel levels. For example, my third child knew just how to clearly avoid the ten second tidy with a multitude of reasons why the toy cows have to be lined up, exactly the right way, on the linoleum, facing forward and behind the fence, before nap time, and never dumped in the toy bin.

Is talking back to mom good for kids?

Well, it’s a little more than that.

In a second study, two dozen families were observed for a year. Mother-child interaction consisting primarily of direct verbal commands (Don’t throw toys) vs a reasoning approach (Throwing toys can hurt someone, put the toy down) “appears to invite more complex thought and language development,” says Bruce Fuller, the UC Berkeley education professor who coauthored the work.

So if a kid can argue he is gifted? Whew! I’m raising geniuses.

Giving myself a reality check, I am comforted that this study focuses on development for two and three year olds. I’m relieved that the young debaters quickly catch on to the fledgling confidence and effective parenting that comes with experience. Thankfully, new moms and dads don’t stay new to parenting for very long.

We simultaneously grow our parenting skills just as quickly as our children grow their haggling skills.

After the first three years we develop our mommy-brains, cast aside our idealistic notions that arguing is not for you, and quickly pick up the subtle, but effective, evil- eye-followed-by-the-eye-brow-raise that requires no words at all.

### by Annita Woz for EP November 20, 2009.

Flapping Seal Flippers by childgrower A. Woz.

feet on sand scott buried“Anger is fear turned outward.” anonymous.

I was standing at the sidewalk waiting for my three kids to come out of the school building so we could take quick trip to the store and get a winter coat and a hat for my daughter.  While waiting, I got into a conversation with another parent about some issues that are making her very unhappy. She was talking a mile a minute, sort of loudly and gesturing like the flapping front flippers of a seal after performing a behavior worthy of a few raw fish.

I wanted to duck out-of-the-way of the next act but she honestly wouldn’t take a breath.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like people flock to me as a problem solver. These flip flappers are mostly just parents who are new to the whole idea of letting another adult teach their children. The school system is all new territory full of mean teachers like they had when they were kids, I suppose.

For some of the parents, the school day kind of robs them of their place in their child’s life. As they adjust to the emptiness of not being present for every accomplishment, they fill the void while separated from their child by critically assessing all the people and places that do have Susie’s ear.

Parents naturally want their children to get the best education they can and add an unreasonable expectation that their kid will be happy while they are getting it.

We didn’t love every minute of school, but we think our kids will?

Yes! Parents like me want to see smiling faces, hear reports about loving the latest math test.  When my child comes out of the brick building at the end of the day, I wan to peer inside his head and see the needle pointing at the  “advanced learning happened today” on the learning gauge.

I also seem to have an invisible sign on my forehead that invites people to just open up and let ‘er rip.

The gymnasium is so small, kids need to run.

The teacher is so unorganized, the kids need structure.

The day is so structured the kids need free time to be kids.

The fundraising is out of control  and they should just stop buying so many paperclips and funnel that money to a better playground.

I ws the same, I think.  A friend of mine with a high schooler remarked that his youngest who is 3rd grade has introduced him to a whole different set of parents. They are all younger, (what! no grey hairs of wisdom and experience?)  and they are also just as vocal if not more worried than we were at that point in our lives.

They are afraid of the unknown and they don’t hesitate to admit it. School sidewalks are full of moms and dads who take parenting seriously enough to worry about controlling every aspect of their child’s environment and trying to create a fairytale story of fluffy, happy experiences 24/7. Homework should be fun! Learning fractions should be fun!

I know that if there is a way to invent a feelings thermometer to measure the degree of happiness for each school age kid, I could sell a dozen a day to parents who are just like I once was-  a happy face always stands for an A+, and a frowny Mr. Poison face means school is a bad place.

As a new elementary school parent, I had not been given a reason to trust the people who were going to see my child for more hours in a day than I would.   I wanted the teacher to see my child’s special talents, to look out for him,  and worry along with me – would my child be brilliant? would he handle the learning environment? would he be bullied? would he learn to love letters enough to get him through a lifetime of reading?

Watching through the classroom door I was angry because I was afraid for my child’s future, maybe all parents are.

The advice I got from the school principal came in the form of an offer.  He told me, “Get to know us.  We love children and you’ll find that we always do our very best. ”

Flapping flippers and all, I stopped watching the playground, and stopped worrying out loud to anyone who would listen.  Some say,  we always find the time to do the things that really matter-  so,  I stopped spying through the classroom door and stepped inside to volunteer.

###by childgrower A. Woz.

A revised version of this post appeared in the March 2010 John Rosemond Traditional Parenting Newsletter.

Sit Still or Go Sailing? by childgrower A. Woz.

cobicrossedfeetA few weeks ago a major story in the news was whether or not to allow 14 year old girl to sail solo around the world. The authorities were concerned for her safety, parental responsibility was questioned, and a court order delayed the trip while the legalities were sorted out.

Should a young person be sailing the ocean, alone,  if this is what she believes she can do?

This young girl thought she should, and so she did. Update: May 16, 2010.

UPDATE: 2 Years later,  now 16, young sailor completes voyage around the globe- solo.  January 21, 2012. http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/21/world/americas/st–maarten-teen-solo-voyage/index.html?eref=mrss_igoogle_cnn

Sir Ken Robinson’s 2006 TED presentation about how children learn and how success in school is defined,  includes a warning about the processes followed for typical schools teaching largely to the math and language disciplines and relegating the arts and physical movement to last on the priorities list.

Can classroom instruction prepare a child to sail solo around the world?

Perhaps the bigger question should be asked-  how much classroom instruction is required to inspire a child to want to sail around the world?

Yesterday’s sailors, bridge builders, explorers, entrepreneurs, the self-made success stories of our nation, did not sit still in a classroom. Yes, they had instruction. Some had money and some had none.

Some shadowed actors to learn languages, some came from other countries and apprenticed with master carpenters and studied ancient trades.

Some consulted with poets and philosophers and imagined new endings based on the inspiration of authors and teachers and built on top of  those basics,  true.

But those who rose to the challenge, to a duty, to the necessity of surviving, applied what was learned in books,  then added their own ideas and took advantage of an opportunity,  turned a profit,  then earned an income and provided for their families-  all great things achieved, despite facing language barriers,  disparate poverty levels and uncontrolled public health risks.

I doubt many of them sat still, and many of them probably didn’t “fit in” either.

Robinson’s conclusion is that formalized education, adopted in the 1900’s as a result of the industrial revolution with the primary focus on preparing workers to succeed in the production of goods to meet demand, will not meet tomorrow’s workplace demands.

Robinson argues that in the future, the future that our kids will master, they will have to succeed in a new arena and worries our educational system requiring kids to sit still, perfecting rote memorization- requiring teaching to a test as a measure of a person’s capabilities-  is unfair to those who are born with talents that lie outside of the factory floor assembly line mentality of current public school systems.

It makes sense.

Take for example the current “greening” of America. Policies and production are now shifted to sustainable local production and creatively recycling what had been invented for another purpose and downsizing reliance on “stuff”, taking advantage of reusing what we already have at our disposal rather than wasting precious resources on what will fill a landfill at the end of it’s present use.

If this is the start of the changes in our economy and the income potential follows this trend, then  tomorrow’s graduates will need to be prepared via a new educational system that relies more on the agility and creativity of the mind to solve problems rather than the mere organizational capabilities necessary to efficiently turn plastic into inanimate objects for sale on a shelf.

What if focusing these minds to fit in with the silent concentrators or medicating their minds by suppressing these alternative styles is backward?

Maybe we should be seeking wasy to release the talents they arrive with onl earth and let them sing out, move about and hope they infect their classmates and teachers with their unusual approach to a uniform world and follow them as they turn the current educational model on its ear.

Our educational system should be growing a mind that values visual and artistic interpretation, requires creativity to forge cooperative national leaders and relies less on force and more on communicating shared histories and finding new  methods to solve new problems.

The future may depend upon a student body that is as emotional as it is resistant to following a schematic, a student mind that is less of a servant to the predictable and defined normalcy and a learning environment free of desks and full of the wind and sails and skills that take them around the world.

Today’s students are tomorrows leaders needing both the skills to launch an organization into an alternative route and the insight to seek solutions bigger than the shrinking world of countries connected so closely by technology.

Tomorrow’s think-tanks will combine the best of all nations cooperating to solve new world-wide issues needing new processes for a host of formerly unimagined problems.

Robinson suggests that math and language are important, if not equal to the artistic and creative side and education should develop both.

It is hard to imagine what the future is going to be like, but requires no great leap to see that every child in the world dances, reacts to music, is touched by the sounds of songs and rhythm, this universal language.

Not every young person falls in love with math and grammar, but find one that can resist dancing to the radio.

It is not difficult to surmise that music, the arts, unbridled curiosity and creativity may be the bridge that crosses an entire planet to become the common ground not just across our country, but across all nations, the common language of music, or art, may be the creativity that opens communication and enable people to respond and unify resources around the globe.

With creativity we create new technologies, new tools and maybe even new languages,  perhaps a language rooted in song or harmonious movement, will be necessary to handle natural disasters, climate adjustments and the ever larger challenge of feeding the hungry, fighting disease, eliminating violence.

Robinson’s lesson is that we don’t need to teach creativity in classrooms, we just need to assign it value in today’s educational model and nurture it, and nurture the children with these talents and abilities.

Will a solid education based in recitation and teaching to a test prepare the next generation?  It is a good foundation that may just need a stint of sailing around the world to perfect it.

Even one semester of college teaches a student that he or she is not the center of the universe and opens the eyes of students to new ways of thinking and new thinking about old ways.

Perhaps texting, technology and social networking are skills that tomorrow’s leaders will rely upon to connect them far beyond their classroom lectures and is a  necessary preparation for running a world that does not have borders defined by cubicles of worker bees with advanced degrees in sitting still.

###by A. Woz. Orignally published November 4th, 2009 on  Childgrower Blog and published in the January 2010 John Rosemond’s Traditional Parenting Newsletter www.rosemond.com .

4 y.o. not listening from EP by A. Woz

momandjaedytoestouchAdapted from an October 2009 on-line forum discussion post from a frustrated mom on the EmpoweringParents.com website.

This mom was at her wits end because her boy was constantly going from one problem to another. If he wasn’t on top of the cupboard digging in the sugar bin, he was dilly dallying around when they had to get out of the door in the morning. Her little guy was touching everything at the stores they visited and was doing everything BUT getting ready for bed dragging the night time routine into long past bedtime and long past mom’s patience level.

Oh mom of a “busy” 4.y.o,

I have been there.

“Busy” is a nice way of saying, frustrating, unfocused, so time consuming, annoying!

Or some would say, “Sensory learners, Spirited, Curious, Fun.”

At age 4, kids are learning by exploring and they are learning how to do things to make you happy and how to do things that make them happy.

They have nothing else to do in a day except learn, while we are juggling parenting, cleaning, working, bills, and so much more. What should take five minutes (brushing teeth, getting PJs on, getting out the door) can take much longer since 4 year olds have no concept of time.

Lucky them! They don’t need to think about time- they have an entire lifetime to live and they dive in headfirst to the learning and the greatness of the world they live in…

It’s almost too bad that this natural curiosity, this giggly happy time, this zest for doing everything fun all the time has to be tamed at all….

But, even though they are fun and frustrating, cooperation is still important, limits are still important, sometimes the schedule has no flexibility and things have to get done.

For young kids the book, How to talk So Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk by Faber/Mazlish is Incredible! Not only is it in part cartoon form and part workbook form, but it has good practical ideas to try. Yes there is some theory, but most of the book is about teaching parents the skills to handle children with words.  One of its best lessons is the one word reminder. Try “Teeth!” instead of saying for the umpteenth time,  “Johnny, you have to get your teeth brushed, now, lets get-agoing.”

Repeat just one word. The word is a firm reminder, and focuses the kid instead of making them feel shame for not listening.

A pre-school teacher also used this idea for the situation where kids are running through stores touching- and sometimes breaking- various things.  The theory is that kids only hear the last part of what you say. So when you say, “Be careful you’ll break something, please stop running!” about all kids grasp is “running!”.

So they run. Mrs. T suggests tell them what you want them to do.

“No running,” becomes “Walk!” and “No touching!” becomes “Hands in your pockets.”  or “Look with your eyes. ”

At age four, kids don’t get the idea that other people are more important than they are. They are self-focused and the world is all about them, so the idea of respecting property is a little over their heads.  Kids probably think “Mr. Shopkeeper should WANT met to touch them because I love toys more than anyone!”

Nothing works all the time of course, but one of a kids’ jobs is to test the boundaries and learn from the limits. That is their entire purpose- to learn by doing, testing, touching, loving life.

I guess that makes a parent’s purpose to teach by asking, limiting, hugging and loving the teaching process. Remember discipline is teaching, not punishment.

Hang in there- lots of teaching is going on with 4 y.o.s and sometimes, we are the ones learning the most!

Good luck!

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