Archive for the ‘Community and education’ Category

On March 5th, as part of Waltham Committee’s ongoing Scholars Talks series, WSRC Scholar Ruth Nemzoff met with Grandmothers at the Waltham Senior Center to discuss some of the challenges of being a grandmother. Ruth spoke about her two books, Don’t Bite Your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships with Your Adult Children , Don’t Roll Your Eyes: Making In-Laws Into Family for about twenty minutes, the Rest of the time was devoted to a very open and honest discussion of grandparenting when you and your children disagree about discipline, food, religious practice and style of living. The grandmothers shared not only their questions but some of they ways they have managed to work out their differences. It helped to have humor and persepctive that there are many ways to raise good ,loving and kind human being. The attendees engaged in insightful and honest conversation.


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Committee member and Visiting Scholar Georgia Sassen is also the Executive Director of Building Resilience in Kids, whose tag line is We’re building the village it takes to raise a child.™ As  a clinical psychologist she values prevention as much as treatment, so she is leading a project which helps children develop resilience by learning to build strong relationships. Currently she is leading the project, Drumsand Poems, at the Plympton Elementary School.

Georgia Sassen with students at Plympton School, Waltham, MA

Georgia and her Student Scholar Partners have just finished presenting a free, fourteen week after school program at Plympton School on Bacon St in Waltham. Drums and Poems uses DRUMMING AND JAMMING as a literacy-building tool. “How do they connect drumming and poetry writing?” you might ask. “Poems are based on rhythms. They add words instead of melody to a rhythm.” Georgia says. “So in our activity, third grade children start with rhythm and find themselves building poems. Because they make the poems together, they also build COOPERATION skills, and relationships. Using homemade drums, the children work in teams: one team creates a rhythm and the other writes lines to go with it. Or, they make up poems in small groups and then read them together in the large group out loud. Then they drum the rhythm as they read the poem.”

For more information contact Georgia Sassen, Ph.D., Women’s Studies Research Center, at Brandeis. gsassen@brandeis.edu.

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On April 14th, Waltham Committee member Susan Thomson and Rachael Katz, student/alumnae partner for Waltham Committee member Georgia Sassen, presented a poster session at the New England Regional Campus Compact Conference in Burlington,VT.  The theme for this year’s conference was Higher Education and the Greater Good:  Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century.  Our poster session focused on opportunities for community-engaged learning offered through the Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center Student-Scholar Partnership.  Three projects were presented:  “Women and Safe Food,” by Waltham Committee member Jambalmaa Khainzen and student partner Kathleen Rees; “Drums and Poems,” by Georgia Sassen and Rachael Katz; and “Assessing Outcomes at a Residential Treatment Center for Adolescent Girls,” by Susan Thomson and student partner Joanne Qiao. All three projects involve community work in Waltham or nearby towns.  “Women and Safe Food” is developing a food safety training program for immigrant women in an English language course at the Waltham Family School, “Drums and Poems” offers an after-school class for children at the Plympton School in Waltham, and “Assessing Outcomes at a Residential Treatment Center for Adolescent Girls” is tracking outcomes for a treatment center in Arlington.  Overall, our presentation at the conference allowed us to share these projects and to learn about the challenges and successes associated with campus-community partnerships throughout New England.  Rachael Katz also had the opportunity to network with faculty connected with the community-engaged learning program at UMass Amherst, where she will be attending graduate school this coming fall.

Rachel Katz at our poster session on opportunities for community engaged learning

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Rachel Katz, Georgia Sassen, and the Drums and Poems kids

An experiment at Plympton School, Waltham

Committee member Georgia Sassen is an avid advocate for the power of drumming together and making poems as way to build relational and writing skills.  Neuropsychologists find that rhythm helps children self-regulate, she says, and in her experience, making art together helps children get along.  Georgia is testing her new playful method entitled “Drums and Poems.”  She predicts that the use of rhythm in a communal way via drumming (creating melodies on drums made from recycled cardboard and rubber) and via writing poetry (working together on communal poems) will help children connect with each other and build literacy skills.

Earlier this year Georgia and her nonprofit Building Resilience in Kids approached Peter Silverman, the school principal of the Plympton elementary school in Waltham, and offered ten free weekly sessions of Drums and Poems to third graders in the after school program.  On Febrary 3, 2009, Georgia, her Brandeis alumna intern Rachel Katz, and Brandeis undergraduate Amy Lemelman conducted the first session.

“It worked!” reports Georgia:

Our first session of drums and poems at the Plympton school was a great success.  Third graders were excited and clever, giggling and attentive ­ all at the same time.  Children on one team jammed on drums made of recycled materials, and found a rhythm they liked.  The other team created poems to the rhythm.  The children played with words, the sounds of words, and asked some really good questions.  From one child’s comment, ‘that doesn’t sound right,’ we learned about the number of beats or syllables in a word. Then another child brought up a much more sophisticated question: ‘this word sounds longer than that word ­ but they both have only one sylllable’. WOW. This is the beginning of talking about phonology: ­ how some sounds are long, and sound slow and watery and some sounds are short and they make for lively funny poetry. It’s the difference between ‘low and slow, where mosses grow’ and ‘Hop on Pop! We like to hop!’ Hear the difference? This boy did.

If this isn’t just beginner’s luck, we’ve created a great new method!

There are nine more sessions. Watch this space for more updates.  For more information contact Georgia at  gsassen@brandeis.edu

Thanks to Emily Corbató for her photos from this session!

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In the Fall of 2005, Linda Radzvilla, then School-to-Careers Coordinator at Waltham High School (WHS), invited a group of scholars from Brandeis Women’s Studies Research Center (WSRC) to meet once a week with girls in their first year of the WHS-Blaine Beauty School Program.  WHS students enrolled in the program spent every afternoon during 11th and 12th grade at the Blaine School on Moody Street in Waltham, learning the skills required to become hair stylists and cosmetologists. After gaining one thousand hours of experience at Blaine, they could become licensed salon professionals upon graduation.

Throughout the 2005/06 school year, thirteen WHS-Blaine students and the six members of the  2005/06′ WSRC Waltham Committee got together on a regular basis, generally on Friday afternoons. No doubt the Scholars seemed an odd crew at first to the students comprising a performance artist (Nurit Eini-Pindyck), a filmmaker (Laurie Kahn), two photographers (Emily Corbato and Cheri Geckler), a cultural historian (Christine Cooper), and a judge (Maria Lopez). During their first few months together, the WSRC Scholars and the Waltham girls talked about storytelling, read a book together and discussed the role of will power, screened films about women in the past, and looked at art created by contemporary women artists from different ethnic backgrounds.

Eventually the Scholars and the girls together developed a project about “the stories pictures tell” – stories about friendship, family, work, and community.  The girls were given journal-style notebooks and disposable cameras.  With their first camera, they observed and recorded FACES.  With their second camera, they looked at FACES and HAIR.  And after that, they were freed from all constraints to look at LIFE, in whatever way they wanted to.  Their experiences culminated in an exhibition at WSRC, LOOK! This Year – This Life. It was dedicated to  the memory of Melissa, a WHS student and classmate of the girls who participated in this exhibit.

Participating WHS-Blaine students were: Angelica, Brittany, Casey, Cristina, Dana, Danielle, Elissa, Gloria, Heather, Jenny, Kayla, Keely, and Yajaira.

The 2005/06′ Waltham Committee would like to thank:

  • Linda Radzvilla, who was with us through thick and thin, bringing common sense and laughter to the group. She kept reminding us—Scholars and students alike—to value the on-going process and her affection for the girls was both profound and inspiring.
  • MaryAnn Crane, from Blaine, shared classroom space with us, despite a very full and busy schedule, at a crucial point in the development of this exhibit.

Colleen Eagan, then the WSRC coordinator, was also a dedicated member of the project team. She procured the cameras and journals for the girls, helped prepared the photos you see here, and provided a vital link with vendors as the exhibit took

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