Booing Death Inspires Young Writers

Seattle public school language arts teacher Christina Roux invited Pamela Sackett into her classroom again (see November 2013 below), this time for her 2014 University of Washington Summer Youth Program High School Course under the auspices of Puget Sound Writing Project (PSWP).

Pamela performed excerpts from Booing Death. Some excerpts included performance with Ms. Roux’s talented teacher’s assistant, Julie Olsen, who has an impressive background in theatre and opera. Pamela provided musical interludes between each reading and revisited the classroom a second time to conduct a specially-designed exercise to inspire the students to delve deeper and more courageously into their writing and reflecting process.

The writing program description, in part: “Improve your opportunities in life by learning to write well. Study strategies, habits, and fundamentals of great writers that lead to effective writing.” Sackett’s Booing Death excerpts were a substantial part of the class reader, keeping company with the likes of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Theodore Roethke, Willaim Faulkner, Mark Twain and Charlotte Bronte, among other notables.

Booing Death Goes to School

Seattle’s Roosevelt High School selected Booing Death for “Book Seminar,” an honors credit literature course. Students read Booing Death and were invited to attend an author event in Seattle. The course culminated with the author’s visit to the classroom. The brainchild of language arts teacher Christina Roux, whose expressed aim was to bring a “living author and her work” to the classroom. Based on student feedback about the book, author reading/signing event attendance and students’ study guide response narratives, the program was a grand success!

Portions of Booing Death were integrated into a drama therapy curriculum this fall at Antioch University, Seattle, thanks to Bobbi Kidder, MA program faculty and Drama Therapy Coordinator. Students received selected excerpts from the book and, subsequently, Pamela visited the class to read the pieces and address questions. Students engaged with the material through writing and movement exercises conducted by Professor Kidder. Booing Death served well as a catalyst for internal landscape exploration and skill-building.

For more details or to bring Booing Death to your classroom, please contact ELA.

The Ducks & Us Heads To The Movies

What do Columbia City Cinema, a one-stop, triple-screen neighborhood movie house seated in the most ethnically diverse zip code in America and Far Away Entertainment, a nine-location movie house with over thirty screens in the state of Washington have in common? Come July and August, both are getting behind Emotion Literacy Advocates (ELA)—a local, arts-based non-profit using the arts to promote social-emotional learning—by booking ELA’s latest creation: The Ducks & Us Song Book Movie.

Slotted as a pre-feature attraction, The Ducks & Us Song Book Movie is a children’s-style musical story with illustration, animation and video by Art Institute of Seattle interns and background vocals from the Northwest Boychoir. In under seven minutes, the movie wraps reading literacy, environmental literacy and emotion literacy into an empathic message for anyone who thinks bringing left-over bread, seeds and table scraps to the park benefits wildlife.

The big screen version is based on ELA’s learning tool, The Ducks & Us, an original song CD and study guide by ELA’s founding artist Pamela Sackett. The CD was incorporated into Seattle Audubon learning programs in 2008 and is distributed through the education and outreach arm of the Graham Visitors Center at Washington Park Arboretum. The concept grew out of Sackett’s devotion to healthy urban parks and her frustration, after spending a year trying to convince the city to post signs in strategic places.

“Apparently I have no fond memories of sharing my food with ducks, so I was free to embrace the science. I trusted the facts and wished I could convey their relevance to many park visitors who throw pizza, cookies, crackers, burritos and bread, thinking that wildlife needs it.” After her daily walk in the park, Sackett spent several months gently offering Progressive Animal Welfare Society flyers to folks, attempting to substantiate her requests to curtail the activity.

At an early point, a city of Seattle Parks and Recreation employee offered to assist. She approached an older man throwing food from his truck and, later, let Sackett know the man did not comprehend her request to stop. Sackett decided then to delve deeper, observe and converse with a wide range of people throwing food in the park.

“I came to understand how incomplete the science part of the equation can be, especially when it comes to behavior change. Just about every human circumstance has a social-emotional component, ” said Sackett. “An artfully told story can let people know they are heard and understood, as well as convey new information.”

Sackett parlayed quite a bit of good will in support of The Ducks & Us Song Book Movie project. A substantial in-kind contribution from Deluxe Entertainment Services Group, a Los Angeles-based company, will enable ELA’s digital movie to be projected on a sixty-foot cinema screen.

“I am confident that wherever The Ducks & Us Song Book Movie goes, so too will go an opportunity to learn how to engage with more open eyes, ” said Sackett.

Look for The Ducks & Us Song Book Movie at Columbia City Cinema and Far Away Entertainment screens in July and August. For more information, the tour schedule and to see The Ducks & Us Song Book Movie trailer, click here.

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Emotion Literacy Advocates™ Launches Innovative Concept in Community Education: The Full Spectrum Birthday Song CD Gift Program for Children

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!”