Monday, November 26

Create Creative Children

by Karen Vanek

To encourage creativity in children: stand back, offer models, and help them find value in making mistakes.

First, hold back on criticism of children’s ideas. You may know that their idea needs fine tuning, but if you inquire instead of criticize, your reward will be a new creation. When my daughter chose to paint each wall of her room in a different geometric pattern, she had the creative design. She just needed help using the masking tape.

Next, don’t jump in and solve problems for children. Watch as they come to a solution on their own. This worked wonderfully when my granddaughter was designing a Fourth of July costume with poster board and glitter. The firecracker costume she created was so personal. In fact, tying curled ribbons to her wrists caught the judges’ eyes and won her a first prize.

To further inspire children to create, read them books about discovery. A great example is Mistakes that Worked by Charlotte Foltz-Jones. One example she shares is of Mr. Goodyear putting his wet boots in the oven that lead to the discovery of vulcanized rubber tires.

Finally, to be creative, children need to not fear making mistakes. The best advice I ever heard was, “Knowing why you were wrong is just as good as being right.” This frees children up to look at mistakes as learning opportunities. Isn’t this how scientists and mathematicians learn?

Creative children are a joy to behold. Have fun bringing out the creativity in your children.

Guest blogger Karen Vanek is author of the book Santa Claus Meets the Tooth Fairy. A longtime teacher and a grandmother, Karen has inspired creativity in children for many years. 

Tuesday, November 20

From Sack to Skillet

by Richard Kordesh

It takes months to grow them, a little over an hour to wash, slice, and cook them, and twenty minutes to eat them!  

I refer to the potatoes we grow in dark sacks alongside one of our raised vegetable beds. When I served them on a recent Sunday dinner for my adult kids, these potatoes - fried with our garden’s red onions - disappeared in a hurry.

Yet, any sense of being rushed dissipates when one is reminded that each step from sack to skillet yields its own bounty. The initial insertion of a few spuds into the bottom of a partially filled bag signals the first step. 

During the following weeks, we gradually load the bag to the brim to cover each succeeding upsurge of plant growth. As this buildup occurs, the potatoes expand within, out of sight. The dirt eventually reaches the top; green shoots and flowers extend from these burlap containers, creating a newly colorful complement to the surrounding floral display.

When the plants droop, it’s time to spill open the sacks. Out fall the dirt and the fully formed potatoes. The “wait’ was event-filled; every phase of growth gave forth its own gifts to the eyes and hands.

When a dad or mom can keep the children close to, and engaged, in this slow-moving production in the garden, each ultimate bite at the table evokes for young ones the sights, the smells, and other sensations brought forth over the spring and summer by these vegetables’ progressive formation.

Guest blogger Richard S. Kordesh is the author of Restoring Power to Parents and Places and has worked professionally in the community development field for 35 years. Visit Richard's website for more

Thursday, November 15

Yoga is for everyone

by Katherine Matutes

“Mrs. Matutes, I need to go out in the hallway and breath,” said a frustrated second grader at the elementary school where I worked as an aid.

This particular boy had a rough childhood and was having a very difficult time controlling himself in the classroom. Up to this day, he was so disruptive to the class that he’d often have to be sent out into the hall to try to cope with his personal frustrations.

Around this same time, I had just completed my yoga teacher training and was intrigued by breath-work and the power it could have over one’s emotional state and mental wellbeing. In particular, I appreciated the power of “dragon” breathing, which is breathing forcefully from one’s belly and gradually allowing the breath to become calmer, slower and more relaxed. One’s mood gradually mirrors the change in the breath. It is a powerful lesson of emotional control focused on connecting the mind to the body. If one can consciously relax the body, the mind will follow.

JCC after school yoga
After a recent outburst, I asked my frustrated student to try “dragon” breathing. The day he asked to go into the hallway to breath, I understood my student had begun to master emotional self-management by recognizing that he needed to focus on his breath. He’d begun regulating the process himself.

My student’s experience was a revelation to me that young people need to learn and can benefit from yoga techniques just as adults do.

I witness another version of this emotional transformation with the JCC afterschool care weekly yoga class. As the participants enter class the first thing they ask me is “are we going to do the relaxation thing at the end again?”

The kids are referring to shivasana, or final relaxation, the portion at the end of class where they close their eyes, slow their breathing and connect with their inner stillness. It is a marvel to watch wiggly, elementary school age kids settle into a calm and peaceful state.

They, too, have learned that focusing on the breath can assist one in mentally controlling the body. The fact that they request this quietness every week is a testament to yoga’s broad appeal.

More About Katherine Matutes, PhD

Tuesday, November 13

Making movies truly moving

by Tim Irwin

We at Heartland Truly Moving Pictures have been excited about our partnership with the JCC over the past year and more. 

At Heartland, we believe that films can not only entertain, but also inspire, educate and engage. 

This is the reason why many of the screenings we've co-hosted with the JCC have included interaction with the people behind the films. The audience has been able to talk to the filmmakers directly, allowing a connection between the audience and the filmmakers that creates a deeper, more meaningful film experience. 

We’ll be offering another opportunity for this kind of experience as a part of the JCC Ann Katz Festival of Books and Arts on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m. when we show three of the best-received short films from the 2012 Heartland Film Festival and talk to filmmakers from each film.

A scene from It Ain't Over
It Ain’t Over, a documentary short film about a man’s struggle with ALS, received the Audience Choice Award in the Short Film category; we will be seeing the film and talking to producer Karl Koelling about the film and its impact. 

We will also see Mr. Bellpond, a fantastical narrative short film about a playwright, and we will have a chance to ask director A. Todd Smith some questions after the screening. 

Finally, we are excited to screen Kipp Normand, a Festival Award-winning short from the 2012 Festival, about the titular Indianapolis folk artist. Director Jonathan Frey is scheduled to attend the screening in person for a Q&A. 

These three films cover a wide spectrum of topics and experiences, and it is always a treat to be able to chat with filmmakers after seeing their films. 

We’re very thankful for our relationship with the JCC, and how it allows us to bring these films and filmmakers to interested audiences outside of our mid-October Festival. And we’re excited to continue screenings next year, too!

Guest blogger Tim Irwin is the Artistic Director for Heartland Truly Moving Pictures. The nonprofit organization annually produces the internationally known Heartland Film Festival and supports community film screenings with partners like the JCC Indianapolis throughout the year.

Thursday, November 8

An Accidental Tourist Comes to Indianapolis

by JCC Staff and Gregory Dawson

Former Indianapolis Star columnist Gregory Dawson returns to the city for a JCC Indianapolis 2012 Ann Katz Festival of Books and Arts author event on November 12 at 7 p.m.

At the festival, Dawson will discuss his latest book, Judgment Before Nuremberg: The Holocaust in the Ukraine and the First Nazi War Crimes Trial. But before his talk, Dawson is sharing the personal story behind the publication of his books with JCC Banter Blog readers.

I’m an accidental tourist – through my own history, and through the history of the Holocaust in a place most people still don’t associate with the Holocaust: Ukraine.

This is remarkable since Ukraine is where the Holocaust as the man on the street thinks of it – the systematic, mass extermination of the Jews – began. Not Auschwitz or Sobibor or Treblinka.

I was one of those men in the street until recently. Growing up in Bloomington in the 1950s and 60s, an IU music faculty brat, I knew nothing about the Holocaust. It wasn’t taught in public school and my mother never talked about the war. My only religion was IU basketball. I didn’t know I was Jewish until I was a teenager.

I was 30 when my mother first told me about her escape from the Nazis in Ukraine. I was 56 when I traveled to Ukraine to research and write her story, Hiding in the Spotlight, published in 2009. I went back a second time in December 2010, this time walking the exact route of the death march my mother’s family followed to the killing field outside Kharkov, on the same day and in the same bitter cold they had done it nearly 70 years before. 

With the writing of Judgment Before Nuremberg, the accidental tourist’s journey was complete.

- Gregory Dawson, November 2012