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MORNINGSIDE CENTER for Teaching Social Responsibility educates young people for hopeful and intelligent engagement with their world. A national leader in fostering social and emotional learning (SEL), Morningside Center reaches tens of thousands of educators and students each year through an array of programs that develop such skills as handling anger, being assertive, solving conflicts creatively and nonviolently, and dealing well with diversity. We help teachers make their classrooms more caring and productive. We support students in taking leadership to improve their communities--from the classroom to the world.

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Action News, Spring 2010

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It's official!

New gold-standard study shows our 4Rs Program helps kids do better socially, emotionally & academically.

Top researchers at New York University, Fordham University, and Harvard have published their findings from a three-year, federally funded study of Morningside Center's 4Rs Program (Reading, Writing, Respect & Resolution). The study tracked the development of children in nine New York City elementary schools that implemented the program compared with children in nine control schools.

Findings from the first two years of the study are now official: Compared with children in the control schools, children in the 4Rs schools were less hyperactive, less aggressive, and saw their social world as less hostile. They were happier and more likely to resolve interpersonal problems competently.

What's more, during the first year children judged to be at greatest behavioral risk by their teachers had better attendance than their counterparts in the control schools and made better academic progress as rated by teachers. By the second year, they were also doing better on standardized tests. In addition, 4Rs schools had significantly higher levels of overall classroom quality compared to control schools.

What's New on TeachableMoment.Org

TeachableMoment.Org, Morningside Center's website of free teacher resources, provides timely, inquiry-oriented lessons on issues of the day. Newly posted items include:

GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE: Fitting the Facts Together & Acting on Them (9/22/10) Student readings explore the scientific evidence on global warming, the views of climate change deniers, and ideas for student action on climate change, including a day of action on October 10, 2010, sponsored by 350.org, Greenpeace and the Rainforest Action Network.

Controversy over the NYC Muslim Community Center & the 9/11 Experience (for younger students) (9/22/10) This lesson asks children to watch and discuss three public service announcements by the Council on American Islamic Relations featuring Muslims who were part of the 9/11 rescue effort; consider the news about the controversy over the Cordoba Project ("Ground Zero Mosque"), and discuss a Niemoller poem that relates to standing up for the rights of others.

ISLAM & ISLAMOPHOBIA (for younger students) (9/15/10) Students talk about their cultural heritage, watch an online video about American Muslims, discuss their understanding of Islam and Muslims, and share their own experiences of being treated unfairly.

GETTING TO KNOW YOU: Classroom Activities for Starting Off the School Year This 28-page PDF booklet includes great activities to get your class (grades preK-12) off to a good start in the new school year.

BAN ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: Does it Violate ''Due Process' and 'Equal Protection'? (9/8/10) A student reading provides an excerpt from Judge Walker's ruling that California's Prop 8 is unconstitutional and describes competing opinions on gay marriage. A critical thinking activity follows.

PAKISTAN'S 'STAGGERING DISASTER': How Students Can Help (9/1/10) A brief student reading suggesting the dimensions of the crisis is followed by suggestions for student discussion and inquiry, and ways to translate compassion into action.

NYC MUSLIM COMMUNITY CENTER: Why There? Why Not? (8/30/10) Three student readings describe plans for the controversial center, multiple perspectives about it, and an overview of mosque protests in New York City and elsewhere. Suggestions for a fish bowl discussion follow.

THIS IS JUST TO SAY: NCLB and Race to the Top Leave Education Behind (8/23/10) Alan Shapiro's essay challenges us to consider current education policies and what real reform might look like.

AL QAEDA AND THE TALIBAN: What Threat to the U.S.? (8/4/10) President Obama continues to maintain that Al Qaeda and the Taliban "threaten America and its allies." Is he right? Three student readings present some of the basic background information on Al Qaeda and the Taliban and on differing views of counterinsurgency.

CHECKING FACTS WITH SNOPES, FACTCHECK & POLITIFACT (7/14/10) The internet is loaded with information--but much of it is inaccurate. Three student readings examine three reliable factchecking sources--Snopes, FactCheck, and PolitiFact. Discussion questions, writing assignments and opportunities for group work follow.

ACTIVITIES TO CLOSE THE SCHOOL YEAR (6/23/10) (for all grades) Five activities use different methodologies to help you and your students reflect on the year and look ahead to next year.

SHOULD US OFFICIALS & HEALTH PROFESSIONALS BE INVESTIGATED FOR WAR CRIMES? (6/23/10) Three student readings consider a new study by Physicians for Human Rights of the Bush administration's use of health professionals to monitor "enhanced" interrogations, reactions to the issue, and historical examples of medical experimentation. Discussion questions and suggestions for other activities follow.

THE TEXAS SOCIAL STUDIES CONTROVERSY (6/16/10) Students learn about the Texas Board of Education's controversial new standards and consider whether they approve of ten items included in the new standards.

GULF OIL SPILL: What happened, and who is responsible? (for younger grades) (6/9/10) Students discuss the massive BP oil spill and view two short videos as they consider what happened in the gulf, their own consumption of oil, and who should be held responsible for the spill.

REFORMING WALL STREET & Its Booms, Bubbles & Busts (6/9/10) Three student readings outline the near collapse of the U.S. financial system, the deceptiveactions of brokers and banks, and the financial reform bills Congress is nowo considering.

SHOULD A PRESIDENT HAVE THE RIGHT TO EAVESDROP ON YOU? (6/2/10) Three student readings explore the legal conflict over whether the government can claim "state secrets privilege" to tap people's phones, review email, and examine internet usage. Discussion questions and suggested activities follow.

THE GULF CATASTROPHE (5/21/10) An introduction and three student readings explore the vast BP spill, who is responsible, and problems with the Minerals Management Service.

ARIZONA'S CONTROVERSIAL NEW IMMIGRATION LAW (5/12/10) Three student readings consider the law, a new poll on immigration policies, and the story of one undocumented immigrant. Discussion questions, a pair-share dialogue, and suggested additional activities follow.

JERUSALEM: Divided City in a Divided Land. (5/5/10) Three student readings explore the Israeli/Palestinian conflict over Jerusalem, tensions between the US and Israel over the issue, and how it affects US relations with Arab nations and peoples.

PHOEBE PRINCE'S SUICIDE HIGHLIGHTS THE PRESSING ISSUE OF BULLYING (4/28/10) Two student readings describe the events leading to the young girl's suicide, the depth of the bullying problem and an approach to countering it. Following the readings is an outline for small group discussion in which students share their experiences with bullying and discuss what their school is doing or should do to counter bullying.

President Obama: 'TOWARD A WORLD WITHOUT NUCLEAR WEAPONS' (4/21/10) An introduction and two student readings explore Obama's pledge to move toward nuclear abolition, obstacles to it, and current analysis from author Jonathan Schell. Discussion questions and suggestions for further inquiry and citizenship activities follow.

SAME-SEX PROM DATE: A Civil Liberties Issue (4/14/10) Constance McMillen, who is lesbian, wanted to attend her senior prom with her girlfriend. A student reading describes the controversy and court ruling that ensued. Discussion questions and a writing assignment follow.

A VERY CONTROVERSIAL HEALTH INSURANCE LAW (4/7/10) Student readings provide an overview of the new health insurance legislation and conflicting views about it. Discussion questions and a writing assignment follow.

NEW BILL EASES STUDENT DEBT - But Maybe College Should be Free (3/31/10) A student reading describes the problem of college debt and provisions of the new reform law. A second reading presents arguments comparing college debt to indentured servitude and calling for free college education. Discussion questions and writing and citizenship actions follow.

CLIMATE CHANGE CONTROVERSY (3/24/10) Alan Shapiro offers a process (including two student readings) to help students conduct a rigorous inquiry into the controversy over climate change.

THE TEA PARTY MOVEMENT: 'Take our country back' (3/17/10) In three readings, students explore the origins of the movement, its anti-government anger, its alliances, and consider its relationship to what historian Richard Hofstadter called 'The Paranoid Style in American Politics.' Discussion questions and subjects for inquiry and writing follow.

ANY MEANS AT OUR DISPOSAL: The case of Binyam Mohamed (3/17/10) Three student readings examine the story of this British resident,who was recently released after being held by the U.S. for seven years as a suspected terrorist. Discussion questions, a proposed fish bowl discussion, and suggested subjects for further inquiry and for writing and citizenship follow.

FIGHTING TERRORISM vs. THE RULE OF LAW (3/3/10) Two student readings consider the controversy over the Bush administration attorneys who counseled that 'enhanced interrogation techniques' were legal.

HAITI: Still in Crisis, but No Longer in the News (2/24/10) Marieke van Woerkom's activity helps younger students consider how Haitians are faring now that the news media has largely moved on.

U.S. ECONOMIC HARDSHIP & What to Do About It (2/17/10) Through three readings, students examine U.S. joblessness and hunger as well as the country's huge deficit, then consider conflicting views on how to address these problems. Discussion questions and suggestions for further inquiry and citizenship projects follow.

WHY DO TERRORISTS WANT TO KILL AMERICANS? (2/9/10) Exploring the "why" of terrorist attacks is controversial in the U.S. Three student readings explore this controversy--and terrorists' possible motives.

HOWARD ZINN: People's Historian (2/3/10) The important and often controversial historian and social movement activist Howard Zinn died on January 27. A student reading about the man and his ideas is followed by discussion questions and suggestions for further inquiry and citizenship.

Supreme Court Rejects Limits on CORPORATE ELECTION SPENDING (1/27/10) A student quiz, reading and discussion explore the court's role in interpreting the Constitution and its recent decision to lift limits on corporate & union election ad spending.

HAITI CRISIS (1/19/10) Help your students learn about the earthquake and Haiti's history, and brainstorm about how they can help Haitians now and in the long run.
Elementary & Middle School: WHAT IS HAPPENING IN HAITI?

STONES INTO SCHOOLS (1/20/10) Alan Shapiro reviews the new book by Greg Mortenson, whose mission is to "promote peace through books, not bombs" in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King: THE POWER OF NONVIOLENT RESISTANCE (1/13/10) Through engaging activities, video, and small-group discussion, elementary or middle school students consider the Montgomery Bus Boycott and how they might stand up against injustice in their own lives.

THE DRONE STRIKE CONTROVERSY (1/13/10) Two student readings explore the controversy over the use of remotely-piloted aircraft to drop bombs in the Afghanistan/Pakistan war. Discussion questions, a fish bowl activity and a writing assignment follow.

The SENATE FILIBUSTER & DEMOCRACY (1/6/10) A classroom activity has students simulate a US Senate filibuster. Two student readings then explore the Senate's less-than-democratic 60-vote rule and possible methods for reforming it. Discussion questions, writing and citizenship activities follow.

BRINGING THE IRAQ WAR TO A 'RESPONSIBLE END' (12/29/09) Three student readings and discussion questions probe current conditions in Iraq and the U.S.'s moral responsibilities there.

An open letter to the New York Times

The New York Times' June 27 story "Online Bullies Pull Schools Into the Fray" provides a window into a highly disturbing aspect of life in our schools. It should be a wake-up call for school leaders and education officials: We urgently need to take positive action to transform adults' and students' attitudes--and the entire climate in our schools. (continue)


Over 300 principals, teachers, students, and education leaders attended Morningside Center's conference on May 22, Courageous Schools: Putting Social & Emotional Learning at the Heart of Education.

"We organized this first annual conference to help build the national movement for social and emotional learning," says Morningside Center executive director Tom Roderick. "And judging from the number of people who came and their level of excitement, I'd say that movement is growing fast." (See Tom's rousing opening address.) The all-day conference, which took place at NYC's Bank Street College, was sold out three weeks in advance. Among the conference highlights:

  • Daniel Goleman (author of Emotional Intelligence) gave a lively and thought-provoking keynote address focusing on new brain research showing the connection between social and emotional competency and academic learning.
  • In two rounds of meaty workshops, principals, teachers, and other educators facilitated discussions on best practices in SEL.
  • Tom Roderick awarded Connie Cuttle of the NYC Department of Education the first Courageous Educator award, and she accepted with some vivid reflections on her decades of work as a teacher and education leader.
  • A panel of young peer mediators wowed the audience in a discussion about peacemaking led by Morningside Center's Tala Manassah.
  • Poet/performer/professor Lindamichellebaron brought wit and poetry to the day.

We are deeply grateful to all those who made this conference a success: the principals, teachers and others who led the workshops and to all our presenters; conference organizer Mara Gross; the principals on our conference planning committee; our conference volunteers; videographer Carolina Kroon and photographer Chris Smith; the wonderful staff of Bank Street College; and to the Tiger Foundation, New York Community Trust, and JP Morgan Chase Foundation. Thanks, everyone!

Photos, clockwise from top left: Dan Goleman; Morningside Center Board Chair Joyce Dudley; workshop with Emma Gonzalez, Nydia Mendez, Sherley Guerrero and a student; Tom Roderick presents award to Connie Cuttle. Photos © Christopher L. Smith.

NYC schools chancellor Joel Klein, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Morningside Center's Tom Roderick (standing), and PS 24 principal Christina Fuentes watch a student Diversity Panel share their experiences with bias and discuss what we can do to counter bias and foster respect at the DOE's kickoff for Respect for All Week at PS 24 on March 8. See Respect for All story below. Photo © Christopher L. Smith.

U.S. Dept. of Education highlights our partnership with PS 24

The U.S. Department of Education's Doing What Works website identifies best practices in schools across the country. We are delighted that the DOE has chosen to highlight our partnership with PS 24 to foster students' social and emotional learning as an example of how to "reduce behavior problems in elementary school classrooms."

Visit the Doing What Works website for a rich multimedia portrait of our collaboration with PS 24.

RESPECT FOR ALL Week kicks off at PS 24

Brooklyn's PS 24, through its partnership with Morningside Center, has become a national model for social and emotional learning. On March 8, 2010, NYC Department of Education chancellor Joel Klein and NYC City Council Speaker Christine Quinn came to PS 24 to launch the chancellor's city-wide Respect for All week.

Respect for All is the DOE's ambitious program to combat bullying and harassment on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. Through the program, Morningside Center has been collaborating with the Department of Education, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, Operation Respect, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Yes Program to design and deliver workshops for staff from every school in the city on how to foster respect and counter bias.

"PS 24 is a shining example of what can happen when a school puts social and emotional learning at the heart of its work," says Morningside Center executive director Tom Roderick. "At PS 24, students learn to celebrate differences and stand up to discrimination as part of a comprehensive effort to develop their social and emotional skills and build a caring community. The result is a respectful school environment and outstanding academic progress. We're honored to contribute to P.S. 24's success."

For more info on our school-based programs, please contact Lillian Castro at lcastro@morningsidecenter.org or 212-870-3318 x33.

PS 24 Principal receives award

On March 9, PS 24 Principal Christina Fuentes received the Sloan Public Service Award in recognition of her amazing work at PS 24. Congratulations, Christina and PS 24! See Tom Roderick's recent profile of Christina Fuentes.

Check out our new how-to guide for schools!
Beginning with the Children: A Guide to Creating a PEACE HELPERS PROGRAM

Our new 73-page guide describes a field-tested, step-by-step process schools can use to train and support young students (Grade K-2) in serving as "peace helpers" in their classrooms. Peace Helpers take part in workshops to develop their skills in listening, handling feelings, mediating conflicts, and leadership. Then they and their teacher establish a classroom peace corner, where students can go if they are upset or having a conflict. Peace Helpers are available to talk with their classmates in the Peace Corner or help fellow students talk out a conflict. (See Edutopia's video about our Peace Helpers Program at PS 24 .)

Download a pdf version of the Peace Helper guide. Or, to order bound copies, please email Morningside Center's Leslie Dennis at ldennis@morningsidecenter.org.

Beginning with the Children was produced with support from the JAMS Foundation.

Our Diversity Work In the Media

  • As part of its documentary The New York Connection, Dutch Public TV turned its cameras on Morningside Center trainers Marieke van Woerkom and Emma Gonzalez, student diversity panel members, and a mediation session led by young peer mediators -- all part of our ongoing diversity program at Brooklyn's PS 24. See our work in action in this 5-minute video clip.

  • See Eleanor J. Bader's richly drawn portrait of Morningside Center's work in schools, focusing on Brooklyn's PS 130, in the online publication On the Issues --Beginning with the Children: To Teach Peace.

PBS NewsHour features
Morningside Center's Work

On July 21, the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer aired a segment on the remarkable success of Morningside Center's programs at Brooklyn's P.S. 24. The segment highlights our classroom-based 4Rs Program (Reading, Writing, Respect & Resolution), an innovative, research-based approach for fostering students' social and emotional learning. more>>

See the NewsHour's story about our work at PS 24:

Learning Matters, which produced the NewsHour segment, also produced a great bonus video interview with Tom Roderick, Morningside Center's executive director.

More on our work:

  • Teachers: How can you foster social & emotional learning in your classroom? Here's a sample unit from our 4Rs curriculum. more>>

  • Parents: See a sample activity from 4Rs Family Connections, which uses books children are reading in 4Rs class to help open up parent-child communication. more>>

  • Peacemaking 101: Ten tips for dealing well with conflict.

See the Edutopia VIDEO about PS 24!

Edutopia, the website of the George Lucas Educational Foundation, features Morningside Center's work at this stellar public school.

GETTING TO KNOW YOU: Classroom Activities for Starting Off the School Year

Our 28-page PDF booklet includes great activities to get your class (grades preK-12) off to a good start in the new school year.

A School of Our Own:
Parents, Power & Community at the East Harlem Block Schools

by Tom Roderick

"A powerful story of the generation of hope and of the power of a community to educate its young."
--Educator/author Herb Kohl

Morningside Center's Executive Director Tom Roderick tells the moving story of the Puerto Rican parents who created better schools for their children, led a winning campaign to improve early childhood services in NYC and empowered themselves in the process.

Available through Teachers College Press or through Amazon.com.

Photos on this website are by Carolina Kroon www.carolinakroonphotography.com