What’s Ahead for Next Generation Kids?

IM4U Blog from Ellen Booth Church 

What’s Ahead for Next Generation Kids?

Well, the one-word answer is CHANGE.

In this blog, Ellen speaks about the inspiration for her new book.

 I was honored when my good friend and IM4U educational colleague, Uncle Jim Mayer, asked me to write about the inspiration for my new book coming out in Fall 2016 from Gryphon House. It is called "Nurturing Next Generation Innovators" and it is about the skills children will need in the future as they experience life in a rapidly changing, global community. (https://www.gryphonhouse.com/books/details/nurturing-next-generation-innovators)

Actually, the inspiration for the book goes all the way back to my father. He was born in 1896 in rural Nebraska. His father was a Methodist minister and missionary. As a family, they traveled the mid-west in a covered wagon. By the time he passed away in his 90’s the United States had traveled to the moon and back. That is a great deal of change in one lifetime. When I think about my father I naturally reflect on my own life and the changes I have seen and experienced. Technology is one of the most important changes I have had to keep up with. I couldn’t even type years ago and now I do everything on a computer! But of course, as an early childhood educator, my heart and mind always think about children. What’s ahead of the next generation of kids?  Well, the one-word answer is CHANGE. The future is constantly changing and children will need to be innovative in how they use problem-solving, creative and critical thinking skills to thrive. In the future children will have to work with new discoveries in science, expanding technologies, as well as cultural and environmental changes with innovation and problem solving.

Daniel Pink in his ground breaking book, A Whole New Mind, Why Right Brainers Will Rule the World points out how our education system is evolving out of the Industrial Age of the 19th century when there was a great need to memorize information and learn skills. As the world changes our education systems need to change to meet the needs of children. Pink says that we have moved through the Information Age of the 20th century where knowledge is readily available through technology and now we are in the Conceptual Age of the 21st century. He says, “in short, we’ve progressed from a society of farmers to a society of factory workers to a society of knowledge workers. And now we’re progressing yet again- to a society of creators and empathizers, of pattern recognizers and meaning makers.” 

We know from studies that children develop these skills through open-ended, play-based activities such as those in the IM4U Educational program. Activities that encourage children to empathize with others viewpoints, discuss and solve problems on the spot together are both community building as well as brain building. Hands-on activities that use the arts and science build all the basic skills children need but give them the advantage of thinking about many ideas instead of worrying about getting the “right” answer. Unfortunately, didactic, workbook based programs rarely teach children how to problem solve. Children may get the right answer and pass standardized tests but do not have the innovative skills that go beyond the “facts” we test to the “ideas” we inspire.

Why did I write this book? I wrote it because too many times recently I have found myself feeling discouraged when I got back to the hotel after my keynote speech and school visits. I am disheartened when I see so many kindergartens that do not have blocks, easels, or rhythm instruments. I am shocked to see that many young children have limited recess time while they are asked to spend extended time at table or desk doing pencil and paper activities. I wrote this book to provide educators and families very practical help with activities that are both interesting and challenging for children.  With innovative thinking and skills in place, children can greet the world of change with confidence, adaptability and creativity. As Stephen Hawking once said, Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”

That's Not My Name

This article originally appeared on the former Barnes and Noble Experts page. 

Written by: Ellen Booth Church

We have all heard the saying, "Sticks and Stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me." But haven't we all been hurt by words or names others have used for us? Words have an amazing power to build us up or knock us down. A kind word and a smile can turn a day around, while a mean, angry, or derogatory word can send us into confusion and sadness. This is never truer than in the early years of child development. In the 3 to 5-year-old age range, children are very focused on learning words. Their personal listening and speaking vocabulary is growing by leaps and bounds. They are fascinated by words and will 'latch onto" new ones as soon as they hear them. This is an especially important time to be sure that your child is hearing positive words and phrases about themselves and others. As you well know, use an angry word to describe your neighbor and you will probably hear your child repeating it soon afterwards!

Interestingly, it is not always the angry or derogatory words that can have an impact on children. In first grade I was tiny…the smallest child in the class. I also was very shy and quiet. The teacher started calling me "Ellen Churchmouse" instead of my real name. While on the one hand it could be seen as a "cute" nickname, it actually became a taunt that children would use to try to get me to start talking. Of course, this made me even quieter. But most of all, it made me feel different and even "not as good as" the rest of the class. It really was not until I started my early childhood education classes in college that I started to speak up in class-and look at me now- a keynote speaker!

Helping Your Child

Name-calling and labeling is a growing issue in schools, starting as young as preschool. In the early years it can be seemingly silly words such as "banana-head" or "big foot"- but even these can still have an effect on the recipient. Probably the best thing you can do is to tell your child that most people like to hear their own name and not something silly they made up. Remind him that if he would like to use a "funny" name for a friend, he can ask the friend if it is okay. Or they can even make up a name together that they both like!

Most young children do not know how to deal with name-calling. You can help your child by suggesting that if someone calls him a name, he can say that he doesn't like the name and will not listen unless the other person uses his real name.

("That's not my name, My name is Tom.”)

Of course, he doesn't have to fight back or even respond-he can just walk away as if he doesn't know whom the teaser is talking to!

"Stupid" is Not a Nice Word!
One of the main words young children use in name-calling is "stupid." Often children don't really know what the word means, but they do know that it is not something nice to call someone or to be called. The basic message is that you are incapable and can't do anything. For a young child who is just "learning how to learn" in school, this is the ultimate taunt, and it is probably one of the first words you should outlaw in your home. Explain what it means and discuss how it feels when someone uses the word. And then make it clear that this word will not be used to describe anyone!

Have a "Time-In" Instead of a "Time-Out"

There is a fine line between playful teasing and bullying. Sometimes this line is crossed when a child gets angry, feels threatened, or insecure. That is when a tease becomes a taunt. Taking a moment to calm down can make all the difference in these sorts of situations. Instead of punitive "time out" for your child, you can suggest a "time in." This can be a time and place where your child can go to calm down when he feels like he is getting upset and might be tempted to use name-calling and other angry words. When you give your child a place to reflect during or after a conflict, you are helping him to calm down, and to eventually be able to talk about the issue. You and your child might want to create a small, protected space that is a safe place to "chill out" when things heat up. With this emphasis on calming down instead of punishment, you will notice that the name-calling will begin to disappear. The goal is to teach your child the joy of caring and empathy. When he knows how wonderful it feels to care, he will naturally do the right thing when interacting with others.


Good children's literature is perhaps the best way to start a conversation about name-calling and bullying with your child. Often a child has an easier time talking about what is happening to a character in a book than in his own life. Here are some excellent choices to get the conversation going!  

  • How to Be a Friend: A guide to Making Friends and Keeping Them by Laurie Krasny Brown, Marc Tolon Brown (Little Brown) ISBN-13: 9780316111539

  • Arnie and the New Kid by Nancy Carlson ISBN-13: 9780140509458

  • Carla’s Sandwich by Debbie Herman ISBN-13: 9780972922524

  • King of the Playground by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor ISBN-13: 9780689718021


Bullying Starts With Parents via CBS Local

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A new study co-authored by doctors at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas is looking at bullying from a different angle: what goes into making a child a bully.  And they’ve determined parents play a vital role.

“It was something that was personally important to me because I was bullied as a child,” Dr. Rashmi Shetgiri told CBS 11 News.

She is a pediatrics physician at Children’s.  She and colleague Dr. Glenn Flores of Children’s—along with two academic researchers— have just published a report for the American Journal of Public Health, and their data show nearly a third of kids between 10-and-17 are either victims or perpetrators of bullying…or both.

While most of us think that bullying occurs in public forums, like at schools or online, the study argues the root of the problem begins in neighborhoods like this all across America.  In the privacy ofhomes; with parents.   “Parents who have more feelings of anger towards their child or feel like their child bothers them a lot or is harder to care for than other kids, those parents have children that are more likely to be bullies,” according to Dr. Shetgiri.

On the flip side, she says parents who communicate with their children are less likely to create a bully.  “Parents who have met all or most of their kids friends, and whose kids finish all of their homework, that’s associated with a lower likelihood of having a child who’s a bully.”

She doesn’t know why homework may be a factor, but speculates, “It might be another measure of parental involvement with their kids and helping their kids be academically successful.  And that involvement, then, lowers the likelihood of a kid being a bully.”

The researchers also found a mom’s mental health may be key.   “If a mother self-reported her mental health as poor or fair—as opposed to good, very good, or excellent—those kids had a higher likelihood of being perpetrators of bullying.”

She says there are no data to show whether stay-at-home-parents have better luck than working parents. And the consequences of being the bully can create medical issues, too, according to Dr. Shetgiri.

“Bullies are at higher risk for depression, anxiety as they grow up and dropping out of school.”

She believes finding and addressing the root causes of bullying helps everyone involved.


Source: http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2012/10/19/study-childhood-bullying-starts-with-parents/

Live in Amsterdam StageIt Show

Hello all! Here is an article from my brothers newsletter about our new Amsterdam Live Album Release. We are excited to be performing a StageIt live show on Tuesday, March 15!

It’s hard to believe, but it’s finally arrived! “Live in Amsterdam” is sitting at Little Flock Headquarters ready to be sent your way. Our first step is to apologize to all the DemonTHON charity purchasers for the months you had to wait for this to arrive. The Vinyl industry is back-logged these days and we had to wait our turn. We hope that wait was not in vein though, the whole package turned out beautifully. Those of you who haven’t heard about this, be sure to check out this live double album recording from our show in Amsterdam two years ago. It is with Jim Mayer and Brendan Mayer and sounds phenomenal!

For those of you who don’t have access to a turntable to listen to the vinyl, have no fear! Each LP package contains a digital download card with a unique code, so that you can download the audio files (one time only) for use on your favorite device. This special card is located in the sleeve with record number one.

— Peter Mayer

Don't forget to add this event to your calendar! 
What: Live From Amsterdam - Online Release Show
When: March 15, 2016 @ 7:30pm CT
Ticket Price: Pay what you can
Link to sign up for StageIt: http://bit.ly/21Xb3fJ
Link to watch: http://bit.ly/1SxNHrg

Pick up your copy of "Live From Amsterdam" here so that you can sing along with us next week: http://bit.ly/1UwN9lF

Pleasantdale Elementary Assembly Recap

We never know where life's gifts will lead us or in what form they will appear. Part of my relentless optimism is based on my experience that anything from a chance meeting, song, or a party can lead to discovering new people, places, and experiences. 

I'm not sure how playing in Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band led me to wearing a broccoli hat in front of a gymnasium full of kindergarteners in Chicago. Thankfully, it did and the common denominator is fun and play. It turns out the theme of enjoying life has benefits other than taking us to the beach ever so often. A few years back, I met Kristin McFadden at Meeting of the Minds in Key West, rocking out with nearly 3,000 other Parrotheads and her husband Bill. Kristin gets it, as all Buffett fans do; Fun works! I have been amazed over the years at Jimmy Buffett's ability to make nearly any challenge fun, simple and easy. Parrotheads have turned this into a nation, partying with a purpose. So inspired by this lighthearted approach, I have made it a mission to use my talents to help young children build safe and healthy communities with fun, music, and play.

It is one thing to talk about a healthy and safe community, but when you experience it firsthand, it’s powerful. When I walked into Pleasantdale Elementary School near Chicago, I knew it was one of these unique places. First sign: I don't have to prove anything. Check. Second sign: Attentive and relaxed people helping me out. Check.

Teachers and parents are the unsung heroes of our global community. They have one of the most important jobs that shapes the future of our world. When I meet educators on my journeys, I thank them for being teachers. They are on the frontline of change every day they go into work.

The classroom of today is evolving so quickly. Not only the home environments that children are coming from but also from an administrative standpoint, classrooms are advancing. Each year, new standards are put in place and the pressure to perform increases.

I am blessed with the advantage of traveling the world, seeing teachers and classrooms transforming. Amongst these many changes, certain things stand out. We all want kids to do better on tests and it is getting harder and harder to find time for play. Even recess can be called into question these days. Understandably so, we all want kids to do well. The paradox is, research consistently shows that play benefits learning. The challenge of finding the time is a real one. 

As Uncle Jim, I get to be a friend to students. I get to be a social emotional educator that brings funky music and educational experiences to the classroom! 

First assignment: Meet the little ones. It is easy to forget that young children are not just shorter adults. Their brains are literally physically forming as we speak. Their "operating systems" are being built to adapt every moment to new things. This is the beauty and the challenge. I can't help but be reminded when around young children that we are co-creating this moment, and this world together. Wow, what an awesome responsibility. What fun!

On the first day, I played a song about hula hoops and Hawaii and the muse hit me with an instant new song about different color guitars after several students in Ms. Mcfadden’s class proudly tell me of their instruments at home.

The next day was up early and setting up for 3 assemblies with Brant, my project manager, who thankfully was able to come on this trip.

Performing to hundreds of young children at once is like driving some magical massive bus with 100 tires on it, bouncing back and forth!  You know where you are going in general, but if you are not willing to take an unforeseen turn or two, you'll end up stuck in a ditch or stalled on the side of the road.

Performing for young children at these assemblies is one of the most wonderful experiences I know. Without any exaggeration, after some of these assemblies I feel that I could not be any happier if I would have sat in with the Beatles that day. It's that good! 

We get to celebrate fun, safety, and play together. We get to sing songs, dance, ask questions, and learn. The personal high-point for me was when a room full of 4th grade students were chanting the names of the puppets, Sammy and Martin. I am told over and over again that Uncle Jim music and assemblies may be too "young" for the older grades. Yet, my experience is consistently that when I'm real with them, they are real with me and we get to have real fun together! 

The principal Matt has a calm leadership style, the PTA president Amanda was bubbly and supportive, and the teachers were open and encouraging. This is the collaborative effort that makes the Pleasantdale School District a unique place. 

We do our best to teach empathy, friendship and what it means to be a friend to ourselves and a friend to others. I believe that joy may be the greatest lesson, because it opens the doorway to fun learning, eager questions, opportunities and solutions that make our community safer and healthier.

Thank you Kristin and Pleasantdale Elementary for bringing me to your school. It was a powerful experience for me. I hope it was for you too!

Harvard University Prep

My oldest brother Ted lives in Thailand and is helping create the curriculum for a University there. Ted has always been a forward thinker and when Peter and I were teenagers Ted would play us European Jazz from the ECM label and introduced us to artists like Lou Reed, David Bowie, Keith Jarrett, and Brian Ferry. 

When I was 18 Ted gave me a book by a philosopher named John Dewey called “Art As Experience”.  John Dewey shaped to a large degree how our world looks at education and art. I could never have dreamed when I received Ted’s gift that it would be something I’d be reopening and discussing with experts at Harvard University years later. But as Jimmy Buffett reminds us, the song-lines of our lives frequently take unexpected turns. 

While at the “Meeting of the Minds” convention in Key West this past Fall I ran into Katherine Burton Jones, Director of Museum Studies at Harvard.  Many people not familiar with Jimmy Buffett think it’s only partying and irreverent songs, they are not aware of Jimmy’s literary roots, his place in the songwriter’s hall of fame, or the fact that luminaries ranging from Ed Bradley, (RIP), of 60 minutes, to director Frank Marshall, and numerous artistic, sports and media figures, fit into the category of “Parrotheads”. (Buffett fans). 

Katherine Jones saw my IM4U Teaching Program for young children and contacted me soon after with an idea to involve me in a workshop and panel discussion at Harvard about bringing Play and Creativity to Museum studies. Of course I said yes and started my preparation. 

It turns out that my IM4U Teaching Program, which brings fun music and games to the challenging topic of social-emotional learning, and bullying, is in fact related to a branch of art-philosophy that Doris Sommer has so beautifully presented in her book “The Work of Art in The World”. Many bold artists from around the world in challenging situations including Bogota, Columbia, Albania, Lithuania, and New York City, have used art to transform nearly hopeless situations by asking the question: “What would an artist do?”

While studying John Dewey, Doris Sommer, David Elkind, and other authors for my preparation, I couldn’t help think of the thousands of Parrotheads who “party with a purpose” by combining fun, art and charity work to help their communities. Pretty cool stuff! 

We may think of the word “Art” as something highly cultured that sits in a distant museum for awe and viewing. However, as John Dewey points out, art is part of our daily lives, it starts with our experience, and can be as commonplace as a song we love, a dish we cherish, or something we encounter daily. Art is part of the fabric of our lives. Whether we choose to experience it or not, that’s up to us. 

We’ll be doing a panel discussion Thursday night (Event Link) with Doris Sommer, myself and Adam Rozan moderating. Adam is the director of engagement at the Worcester Museum in Massachusetts and has done a wonderful job of focusing our dialog. Learn more about Adam here.

I look forward to exploring with the academic maestros at Harvard how we can bring inventive perspectives to Museums and other civic places by putting play and creativity front and center. Let the party begin!