The Windermere Foundation joined with Emotion Literacy Advocates™ (ELA) to provide The Full Spectrum Birthday Song to children and families at the 2008 Educational Resource Street Fair.
Thanks to this generous sponsorship, over two hundred families now have a vital message of love and acceptance. In addition, ELA staff and volunteers gave away “Five Ways To Think Favorably About Feelings” brochures and raised awareness of the essential role of social-emotional education.
On August 11, 2007, ELA participated in the Sixth Annual Educational Resource Street Fair, sponsored by Casey Family Programs, Qwest and Peoples Institutional Baptist Church. Casey Family Programs invited ELA to participate by offering us a complimentary table.
Thanks to generous sponsorship, we offered forty-five Full Spectrum Birthday Song CDs, as gifts, to children, families and for raffle ticket prizes. A couple adults who visited the ELA table were very excited to receive this learning tool for use at their day care centers. ELA’s participation with fair attendees bridged forty-five song CDs into the ears of hundreds. We also gave away approximately one hundred “Five Ways To Think Favorably About Feelings” brochures.
One of the greatest benefits of being a part of the fair was having the opportunity to engage with hundreds of children who came to our table, with varying degrees of curiosity. Each child who comes to the fair must first register at the welcome table. They are then given a passport and are told that once they receive “stamps,” from the information tables, they can cash the passport in for free school supplies.
Children at the fair are generally in a hurry to collect those passport stamps but we devised a method by which children could receive something in addition to stamps and ELA brochures. We were glad to see several children approach our table and engage in a learning process by first letting them know that our table gave out stamps and food for thought. We pointed to our table sign:
Name a feeling, describe it and get a stamp!
Some children scratched their heads and pondered. Had they been asked this question before? Had a stranger behind a table ever asked them such a question at a fair? One adult looked at our sign and said: “Hmmmm…that’s different!” These kinds of responses let us know that we were tossing something unique into the mix.
Many of the responses proclaimed “Happy!” The irony here is that we are offering a musical learning tool, entitled: The Full Spectrum Birthday Song (or Why Just Happy?). We like “happy” as much as the next guy and we want to inspire the warm embrace of all feelings.
Easier said than done—and even less easy to talk about.
One boy said “mad” and that he would handle it by discussing it with friends. His young companion chimed in to name the same feeling and same method for handling it: His friend retorted: “No you don’t (discuss your anger with friends)—when you’re angry, you wanna burn up the whole world!”
Another boy read the sign and adamantly backed away from the table proclaiming: “No, no I can’t do that. I won’t do that. I can’t do that.”
When we gently inquired as to why he couldn’t name a feeling and describe it, he blurted out: “Because I don’t trust people.” We commended the boy for so clearly expressing the reason for his trepidation, that, unfortunately, some people don’t inspire or earn our trust, and offered him a brochure and birthday song CD, both of which he took.
One child said: “angry” and when asked to describe what he does when he’s angry, he simply said: “I go to sleep.” Several children said that when they’re angry, they go to their rooms. They said they got angry for being blamed for something they didn’t do or for having something taken from them.
Several children said: “sad.” We commended those who said they cry when they’re sad, for so congruently expressing an emotion tied directly to a feeling. We also commended those who said that when they are happy, they play…another point of congruency.
An eight-year old boy said that when he’s sad or mad, he notices memories coming up. We appreciated his ability to track a thinking process as opposed to simply reacting to a feeling and for that, we offered encouragement and a CD.
One of the important distinctions we make in our teachings is the difference between a circumstance and a feeling. Given that feelings arise, in part, out of a perception of a circumstance, not the circumstance itself, it is important to clarify one’s perception of circumstances, while also exercising the ability to comprehend and express relevant feelings.
Another essential distinction en route to knowing and accepting feelings is to understand the nature of a feeling and how it is connected to a “soft” need like the need for acceptance, understanding and nurturance. Feelings often alert us to a soft need and can, if translated accurately, assist us with gathering up the impetus to fulfill the need.
After noticing our sign, one of the adults who visited our table exclaimed: “With these three (children) I either become emotionally intelligent or lose my mind.”
Another adult offered to name “frustration.” Her reason being: “coming home to a house, after a long day of work, to find that nothing has changed.” She went on to explain that she doesn’t choose to blame her children for her frustration, that they are innocent and that it is up to her to deal with her own frustration in a direct and responsible way.
ELA’s participation at the Sixth Annual Educational Resource Street Fair was a grand success! Casey Family Programs has invited ELA back for next year, and perhaps to undertake a more active partnership role.
Seattle, Washington (Spring 2007) — How does a group of independent artists who advocate for emotion literacy awareness go about promoting hard-to-pin-down, yet essential concepts in emotion literacy for children? Emotion Literacy Advocates™ (ELA), does it with a birthday song.
The idea in the song is simple enough: to understand the language of feelings, invite them all to your celebration, for starters. To actually get the song to children who would benefit from this message is another story.
ELA’s initial success was with ELSOTA! (Emotion Literacy School ON THE AIR), a compact disk and sixteen-page study guide that has been incorporated into Seattle Public Schools health education curriculum. This time, the ELA board of directors was aiming to spread understanding of “soft” skills further, quicker and beyond academic settings.
Compounding the conundrum: most of the children ELA is interested in reaching are in no position to pay for a learning tool, no matter how excellent; the social service organizations that serve children are notoriously under-funded; the children served by these organizations dearly need the advantages of self & social learning.
ELA’s solution: the gift economy. Responsible individuals and business owners want to give back to the community, but often lack time and expertise to evaluate what is needed. Professionals in non-profit organizations know what would help the children they serve, but struggle to fund what they need. ELA decided to connect the expertise of helping professionals with the generosity of forward-thinking sponsors for the benefit of children—and to fulfill ELA’s mission: to create learning forums for insight into emotion through language and the arts. By giving a gift of ELA’s song, sponsors give experts a useful tool.
The next step was to see how the idea would fly. In August 2006, ELA contacted Children’s Hospital to gauge interest in ELA’s latest learning tool, The Full Spectrum Birthday Song (or Why Just Happy?). The response was encouraging. The Child Life Department requested CDs for their birthday gift program and music therapist David Knott loaded the song into his iPod to use as a resource for in-patients. Another call led to Treehouse for Kids, a non-profit organization supporting children in the foster care system. Treehouse evaluated The Full Spectrum Birthday Song, then enthusiastically requested 1,200 copies.
To date, ELA is pleased to count twenty-three non-profit, city, state and national organizations that have requested 8,000 gift CDs. The CD gift program touches children in hospitals, foster care, learning centers, emergency and transitional housing and through programs focused on mentorship, parent training, success and self-sufficiency.
“It’s faith producing to see how many organizations recognize and value the gift of self & social learning wrapped in a song,” says Pamela Sackett, who originated the music and lyrics. Executive directors, child specialists, case managers and program heads closely scrutinized the song. “Such conscientious examination assures ELA and our sponsors that we are placing The Full Spectrum Birthday Song CD gift into capable and caring hands,” says Sackett, “The arts can do so much when generated and applied with clear intention.”
Sponsors are lining up, too. Gifts of materials and services from both the west and east coasts along with a grant from the Windermere Foundation has resulted in ELA producing an initial run of CDs and fulfilling the first 8,000 requests in June, 2007.
Of course, individual and group purchases of The Full Spectrum Birthday Song CD help support the gift program’s growth.
With systems-thinking at its core and mutual inclusivity one of its organizing principles, ELA’s characteristic approach invites uncharacteristic considerations. As Windermere representatives said, “We had to think outside the box for this. We’re glad we did because it allowed us to recognize the important aspect that ELA is addressing; we’re excited about the nurturing component.”
ELA aims to reach more organizations, state by state, and see how far this “perceptual nudge” as Sackett puts it, can go. Sackett adds, “We all have a day of birth, however culturally disparate the nature of our acknowledgement of that fact can be. Birthdays are undeniable and a great catalyst for sparking a celebration of all our feelings on that especially poignant day and every day!”