Crafting Creative Community

Combining Cooperative Learning, Multiple Intelligences, and Nature’s Wisdom

Beth Andrini (Grades K-8)

BFCC • $34
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The dream of every teacher features a classroom where students care about and learn from each other, exercise their own special combination of intelligences, participate fully in small group and class projects, and creatively solve group and individual problems while excelling academically. With this practical, year-long program you and your students can have it all. The sequentially organized lessons allow you to use your own curriculum while guiding your class to develop increasingly complex social and intellectual skills. Group development at four major levels results in students gaining the ability to create and coordinate group projects of benefit to the community. At the same time, the step-by-step, solidly structured lessons introduce the class to examples from nature that apply to their own classroom behavior. Each of the 12 illustrated chapters include three linked activity units, ready-to-use blackline masters, follow-up suggestions, teacher tips, and a variety of resources. Start now to develop the kind of cooperative, creative, and intelligent classroom community you've always wished for. 448 pages.

Sample Pages
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Table of Contents

Charts

Introduction

Product Reviews

Review by Kathy Bornino
IONS Community Group Leader, San Luis Obispo, CA
(IONS = Institute of Noetic Science)

If you are excited by the emerging concepts in the new biology articulated so well by Elisabet Sahtouris in Earth Dance and Biology Revisioned.... if you are a parent or teacher (or know one) and have wished for expert material to guide teachers to guide students step by step through academically solid yet delightfully structured cooperative learning activities...if you have counseled kids (your own, your neighbors‚ or your students) and wished for effective ways to help kids really learn to use (not just recite) social skills, communication and problem solving....then your wishes are granted and you can’t fail to be delighted by Dr. Liana Forest’s new book CRAFTING CREATIVE COMMUNITY.

This book is an educator’s dream, outlining units of biology-based cooperative learning units that shape any group of young folks aged 8-15 into a community who discover the living world and learn together, who draw on members‚ personal story resources and become effective scientific and social teams. Every part of every exercise is carefully thought out and the program leads students to develop an array of knowledge, analysis of information, critical thinking skills as well as social and team building skills. There are lots of teacher tips and built-in flexibility for adapting units to varying skill levels. There are convenient charts of group development goals, cooperative learning and creativity skills.

A sampling of units includes: how bacteria learn to cooperate by exchanging information, how the rainforest derives strength from diversity, how an ecological community works by establishing norms, management and roles, how wolves and others create communication and habitats for team success, how partnerships in nature benefit all those involved, how primates and others brainstorm and resolve conflicts, and how challenges to ecosystems can draw forth student teams‚ constructive problem solving energies.

Besides being a fantastic resource for classroom teachers, these lessons can be adapted for use by home school parents who combine learning activities with other parents, and use by scouts, campfire, church and other youth groups. This is experiential learning at its easiest and best.


Review by George Jacobs

This is truly a unique book. What is unique is the way its 12 chapters, 36 activities, and 441 pages combine multiple intelligences, cooperative learning, creative thinking, and ecology. The ecology aspect links to the rest of the book by helping students appreciate how we humans can learn from natural ecological communities.

Chapter 3 is a good example. In Activity 1, students discover how sea otters eat just enough sea urchins so that the sea urchins cannot destroy the kelp forests but not so many that the sea urchins disappear. Then, students think about applying the same concept of balance in developing guidelines for participation in their own classroom community (ecosystem).

In Activity 2 of the same chapter, students learn about the habitats of animals such as ants. Then, students consider what how to make their own classroom community a habitat where everyone can learn and feel comfortable. Activity 3 examines the various roles that different animals, such as cougars, play in maintaining the ecological balance. Then, students turn their attention to the different roles they need to play to help their classroom community function well.

Other very useful features of the book are the many blackline masters provided and the list of outside resources that accompany each activity. The blacklines include background information on ecological topics, as well as information on cooperation among students, multiple intelligences, and techniques for fostering creativity. Two things that I really like about the resource lists are that they include lots of fiction and that rather than only listing the title of a book, the specific page or chapter numbers are sometimes given for easy reference.

I like the book so much that I’ve ordered eight more copies to give as gifts to fellow educators who I know will be excited about the way it blends appreciation for the wonders of nature with appreciation for the wondrous potential of the human spirit.


Review by Marie McRee
HopeDance Magazine (www.hopedance.org) #32
January / February, 2002

As our world evolves, we must look closely at what and how our children are taught. An educational system with underpinnings of authoritarianism, control, and competition is often at odds with the collaboration and cooperation so desperately needed in our society. In Crafting Creative Community, Dr. Liana Forest produces a book with cooperation and connection at its heart, a book that provides educators and parents with the steps necessary to bring a group of children together into a caring community. This impressive book contains 36 eco-based activities that develop the relationships and skills needed to form a cohesive community. While teaching the interdependence and interconnectedness of the natural world, the lessons incorporate cooperative learning strategies that enable children to work together, to think critically, to resolve conflict, to navigate their world in a thoughtful and meaningful manner.

A highly creative book in its conception and presentation, Crafting Creative Community is designed to unleash children's own creativity through music, dance, art and numerous imaginative activities. Drawing on Howard Gardner's work on multiple intelligences, the exercises utilize a variety of learning styles and modalities. The principles of inclusion and cooperation are woven throughout a deliberate framework for community building. Each unit provides extensive bibliographies for further exploration, and helpful "teacher tips" and resources. Also of note are the beautiful illustrations by Liana inspiring the artist in us all.

Stories and metaphors from nature connect the learner to a deeper wisdom and understanding of the world. From "networking" bacteria to the symbiotic relationship of rhino and tickbirds, this book is filled with a wealth of information and guidance. There is even an extension activity entitled, "Taking Over From Automatic Pilot: Mindfulness Practice," which my nine year old just read over my shoulder and asked if we could do together because it sounded like fun.

The material in this amazing book can be modified for most groups of children ages eight to fourteen. To view a sample of the book online visit www.KaganOnline.com, and go to "products," and then type in the name of the book in the "search" box. Crafting Creative Community is a gift to all who want to engage the natural world while coming together as a part of the whole.


Review by Lynda Baloche
International Association for the Study of Cooperation in Education (IASCE) co-president
www.iasce.net

Let me begin by saying that Liana Forest is the former Executive Director of IASCE, that I have long admired her work, and that I consider her to be a good friend. I have been eagerly awaiting the publication of this book and expected it to be a high quality and unique contribution to the field of cooperative learning. Even knowing Liana as I do and having very high expectations for this book, I am surprised and delighted by the actual work.

Crafting Creative Community is one of the most original works I have seen. In my mind, it represents an intersection of the experiences, knowledge, and values of a life well lived. Liana brings perspectives honed by her experiences as a fine artist, an elementary school teacher, a psychological anthropologist, and a student of the ancient art of T'ai Chi Chuan. She combines these with her deep structure knowledge of cooperative learning, multiple intelligences, and the research literature on creativity. She then views and interprets both her experiences and knowledge through a lens created by her passionate belief in the importance of community and her active stewardship of the earth. This all sounds a bit esoteric, but Crafting Creative Community is a very accessible book.

Crafting Creative Community is beautifully laid out in four sections. The four sections correspond to a model for community building that Liana described in detail in her 1992 article, Cooperative Learning Communities: Context for a New Vision of Education and Society, published in a themed issue of the Journal Of Education. This developmental model, which draws on the work of several social psychologists—most specifically Tuckman and Schultz—suggests that genuine and successful community building is a slow, deliberate process that progresses through several fairly typical predictable stages.

The stages—and sections—are Forming: "Who are we?", Exploring: "What can we do together?", Performing and Storming: "How can we do our best?", and Out-reach: "How can we combine team efforts?" Liana understands that community building will be more successful when both the content and complexity of a learning activity acknowledge and build on the developmental stage of the group. And, this is precisely how she organizes Crafting Creative Community.

Each of the four sections of this book contains three chapters and each chapter contains three activities. Each chapter is prefaced with a Chapter Orientation. I found these orientations to be particularly helpful. They put into context the activities of each chapter and, collectively, they serve as a kind of primer for a social psychological view of classroom life. Each of the 36 activities is prefaced with a sidebar that outlines the materials needed, which intelligences (Gardner's framework), creativity skills, and group development skills are.highlight-purped, what eco-concepts are developed, and what cooperative learning structures are integrated within the activity.

The activities are outlined, step-by-step, in narrative form. Ideas for careful reflection by students (Liana knows so well that careful reflection is essential to the development of thinking and interpersonal learning skills) are included with each activity. Liana provides ideas for extensions, plus teacher tips and a list of further resources.

When needed, black line masters are included. I am typically suspicious when a book includes black line masters; I don't like to pay money for cute little worksheets that I could have created myself, and I often fear that, in some classrooms, these black line masters will become the primary focus of an experience. Fortunately, most of the black line masters in this book are far more substantive, and this book is so full of ideas, information, and resources that I didn't mind the few that seemed a bit simplistic.

I will describe, briefly, just one chapter from this book to help readers get a better sense of how Liana brings this all together in very "doable" activities that she describes as appropriate for Grades 3 to 8. (I could easily imagine some of these activities being appropriate in Grade 2 as well.)

Chapter 2—one chapter in three that investigates the question "Who are we?"—focuses on building unity from diversity by helping students appreciate their diversity and discover their strengths. Activity 1—Exploring the Rain Forest Community—uses the rain forest as a focus and metaphor. Beginning with a read aloud (Liana recommends and provides brief descriptions for the five picture books and four informational texts that teachers might want to choose as read alouds), students listen to recordings of rain forest sounds (again, Liana provides a list of resources) and create their own sounds using simple instruments plus body and vocal effects. Grouping strategies are simple and this simplicity is appropriate for an "early" activity.

Activity 2—Web of Favorites—begins with students each visualizing a favorite activity and then drawing this activity. Students mime and guess each others' favorites, discuss favorites with the help of their pictures, work in groups to label their favorites, and then—with the help of yarn—build a large web that connects the favorite activities of individuals and groups. Liana provides a list of resources related to webs and pictures of webs created by real kids in real classrooms. It is easy to see how this web could be used repeatedly, throughout the year, to explore various interpersonal themes and to acknowledge repeatedly both the diversity and unity of the classroom community.

Activity 3—Discovering Riches in Niches—begins with students interviewing each other using an interview survey that uses kid-appropriate language to help students discover their multiple intelligences preferences. The collective data is graphed and—in teams—students develop, trade, and hone mathematical statements about the graphed data. The data chart then remains in the classroom as a visual reminder of the diverse abilities and collective strengths of the community. Again, Liana provides a list of resources and pictures of real classrooms.

Each of these activities is a "good idea" but this book is more than the sum of the good ideas it contains. It is the thoroughness with which each idea is developed, the tremendous number of resources listed, and—most importantly—the careful organization and progression of ideas based on sound models and theories that makes this book so valuable.

Thanks Liana for spending so much time crafting such a thoughtful volume to share with us.

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