Inspiring students at the YWCA After School Program

We continue to be inspired by students, teachers, and the wonderful things occurring in the classroom. Take for example, the YWCA of Central Alabama's After School Enrichment Program (YASE), a program designed for children who are homeless in grades K-8, and living in area shelters. This program provides academic assistance, behavioral guidance /counseling, and other enrichment activities.

During spring break while most children were spending time with family, the children participating in YASE spent their time in the computer lab exploring FableVision’s Stationery Studio, playing games, and creating art, short stories and poetry. A decision was made to feature some of those creations by hosting an art show. The children welcomed their guests, gave tours and one 6th Grade girl, Tavorya, shared a reading of her poem, "Discrimination." (Tavorya has been recognized by FableVision as a Shining Star Student. See Shining Star)

Assistant director, Rhonda McKay shares, “Stationary Studio has given some of our students some guidance and encouragement to write and express their thoughts and feelings. Many of our students have been through traumatic and stressful situations. Some have even witnessed or been direct victims of domestic violence. For those who are reluctant to talk aloud about their fears and doubts, writing is an alternative way to begin the healing. Many of the short stories that our students have written on Stationery Studio were shared with our behavior specialist. She has been able to reach out further with these kids on issues that had not come up before.”

Many students like Tavorya have had difficult choices to make during the school year. According to McKay, “Many like to joke around a lot and hide their true feelings and thoughts. We try to encourage students to express themselves with their words. And Stationery Studio has become a vital tool for student self expression".

Luckily, the inspiration and self-expression didn’t have to stop with the school year. This summer, in partnership with YouthServe, Inc, an organization committed to promoting youth volunteerism and leadership, high school students worked with students from YASE to create writing pieces using Stationery Studio. Stationery Studio was purchased by the Junior League of Birmingham as part of a Girl Scout Troop YWCA project, and generously donated to the YWCA of Central Alabama’s After School Enrichment Program. These are the stories we at FableVision love hearing – they fuel us and inspire us to keep doing what we do!

Real-time online learning with Peter H. Reynolds

Sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds, located in his Boston-based FableVision Studios, was invited to participate in Dave Mendell's third grade class in Pennsylvania via Elluminate Live. This new elearning tool enabled Peter to talk over the Internet, listen to the whole class, interact in an IM chat, use a whiteboard to share his art, and offer an interactive drawing session (featuring JUDY MOODY!) with his third grade fans at the Wallingford Elementary School in Wallingford, PA.

Teacher Dave Mendell commented, "We had an author visit us in class this year, and think the kids thought Peter's experience, even though it wasn't in person, was equally (if not more) exciting! The webinar format is a great opportunity for schools that can't afford to bring in authors." Stay tuned for more of these Peter web visits in the future.

The first session was so successful that the Pennsylvania Department of Education Technology Director Michael Golden and former lead staff member Lance Rougeux organized a second author classroom visit with Peter. However, this session was a bit bigger than the first session. From his bookstore in Dedham, Massachusetts, The Blue Bunny, Peter interacted with 82 classrooms and well over 2100 students once again allowing him to share his books, his art, his story telling and passion for creativity and learning.

Michael Golden forwarded some exciting comments about the webinar with Peter from teachers and technology specialists around the state:

“Two of our reading classes participated in today's webinar with Peter Reynolds. We thoroughly enjoyed the process of connecting with someone "far away" and communicating as if he were in the next room or our own cell phones!!!!!!! We also enjoyed the experience of chatting with other schools within the state. There were so many areas of exposure that occurred as a result of today's experience that were valuable. As things unfolded, our students wrote questions down in response to what Peter was saying as a way to make the interaction more engaging. We see this as a stepping-stone for further communication for our students.”

For a third time in as many months, Peter interacted with another group of fans, this time, over 100 teachers attending a The Keystone Summit at St. Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania.

The Summit brought together an inspiring group of progressive educators (also known as “Keystones”) to learn from a distinguished group of administrators, speakers and facilitators. The Keystones engaged in hands-on workshops with topics such as differentiating instruction and teaching in the 21st Century. 

Peter Reynolds was one of the keynote speakers last summer, and was invited back once again to offer this forward thinking group of teachers his thoughts on education and the importance of creativity. Due to the demands on Peter’s time, he was unable to visit ‘live’, but using Elluminate, was once again able to share his message via this wonderful technology.

After his presentation was completed, he received a hearty round of applause from his audience seated over 800 miles away. In an email sent by L. Michael Golden, Deputy Secretary for the PDE Office of Information and Technology, he says: “Great job by you, Peter and your team this afternoon. Thanks, as always, for your willingness to help us lead in PA. Everyone loved the session!”