Tag Archives: children

Teenagers or Screenagers?

by Maria Hosler Byler, Associate Pastor for Youth and Family Faith Formation at Salford Mennonite Church  

On November 25th, 120 people gathered in Salford Mennonite Church’s sanctuary to view Screenagers, a film about teenagers and technology use. Some who walked in the doors were eager to be there, and some came because their parents made them – but all had stories of how technology has affected their lives, and many sensed the urgency of a conversation about screens and faith: How does my faith inform the enormous cultural shift technology has brought on? What actions will help me grow in relationship to God and my neighbor and what actions won’t?

Screenagers was produced by Delaney Ruston, a medical doctor and mother of two teenagers. She shows her own family’s struggles to have a healthy relationship with technology and interviews many other teens and parents. Included in the film is psychological and brain research, as well as information on addiction, multi-tasking, and how technology is affecting academics.

According to the film, the average kid spends around 6.5 hours a day looking at screens. This isn’t just limited to teenagers. During the film I found myself resonating with so much of the research and stories. When I open Facebook for just that one thing and I end up spending 20 minutes scrolling, it doesn’t help my self-esteem or mood. I get distracted from my work when I hear my phone ping. Even as an adult this film offered a chance to assess my own screen use and consider how to use technology in ways that are life-giving – without it taking over my life.

After we watched the film we divided into groups for discussion. The middle schoolers I talked with are aware of the pull of technology. They’re steeped in it from early in their development and it is truly shaping their lives. They reap the benefits as well as the challenges. They’re watching their parents, who are “digital immigrants,” set boundaries for their kids (and sometimes, though not as often, for themselves). And they’re finding their own way as “digital natives.”

Screens are affecting our society in so many ways. There are plenty of tools available to help families set healthy boundaries around screen time, and they’re worth the investment. And even with those, nothing can replace self-control and good communication. Today’s kids (and their caregivers) have to navigate the dangers of their age just as every other generation has, with only a dim picture of the consequences.

Screenagers has prompted many conversations in different settings in the weeks since the screening. In some ways the challenges are totally new. And in other ways, it’s the same question we’ve always faced: How will I live as a follower of Christ in this uncharted territory?

More information about Screenagers is available at www.screenagersmovie.com. There you can find a trailer to the film, view a list of upcoming screenings to find one in your area, and explore hosting a screening yourself. Salford co-hosted their screening of Screenagers with Advent Lutheran Church.

Salford’s Peace Camp joins Tom Chapin on Souderton stage

Salford's Peace Camp joins Tom Chapin on the stage during one of Souderton's Sundae  Concerts in the park.
Salford’s Peace Camp joins Tom Chapin on the stage during one of Souderton’s Sundae Concerts in the park. Photo courtesy of Sundae Concerts.

by Bob Keeler, Montgomery News (reposted by permission)

When Tom Chapin took to the stage for his June 29 Concert Sundaes performance in Souderton (Pa.) Community Park, it was expected he’d have some friends along, so it was no surprise that fellow musicians Jon Cobert and Michael Mark were there.

They weren’t the only ones there to accompany the three-time Grammy winner, though.

Members of the Salford Mennonite Church Peace Camp also got to sing from the Maurice W. Foulke Bandshell.

This was the ninth year for the Peace Camp, which ran June 23 through 27, according to Meredith Ehst, who with Ashley Miller and Carissa Gredler are interim directors of children’s ministries at the church on Groff’s Mill Road in Harleysville.

The Peace Camp used a grant from the Salford Mennonite Foundation Fund to partner with Concert Sundaes to sponsor Chapin’s appearance, Ehst said.

“It was great to partner with them and the community to bring him to the area and have such a great community event,” Ehst said.

“It really was a great night for the kids and they’ll really remember peace camp,” she said. “Tom and the band were really great to work with and it worked out really well.”

Chapin was chosen because some of his songs are part of the music at the camp, she said.

“The three songs the kids sang [with Chapin], we use each year and have incorporated into the program,” Ehst said.

The children, who met Chapin the night of the concert, rehearsed with his CDs, she said.

The children also performed sign language to the songs.

They performed with Chapin just before intermission.

After-intermission songs performed by Chapin, Cobert and Mark included the Steve Goodman-written “City of New Orleans,” recorded by Arlo Guthrie and Willie Nelson, Harry Chapin’s “Mail Order Annie” and “Cat’s in the Cradle,” and the Chapin family anthem “Circle” with a verse tailored specifically to Concert Sundaes. Tom Chapin is the brother of Harry Chapin, who was killed in a traffic accident in 1981. In addition to his songwriting and performing, Harry Chapin was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his humanitarian efforts to end hunger.

“It was a wonderful concert. I think everybody had a great time,” Sam Martin, Concert Sundaes Committee chairwoman, said.

The church contacted Concert Sundaes to see if it would be possible to work together to schedule and sponsor the Chapin concert, she said.

Although there have been other types of support for Concert Sundaes, this was the first partnership of this kind that she remembers, Martin said.

“We don’t really have a policy because it doesn’t happen all that often, but we’re always open to any ideas,” she said. “Each thing, we take to the committee. It’s a committee decision.”

Peace Camp, for children who have completed kindergarten through fifth grade, included a meal for the children in its 5 to 8 p.m. sessions each night, Ehst said.

It is somewhat similar to Vacation Bible School, but Salford has created its own curriculum, she said.

The youngest children learn about “Peace and Me,” the oldest learn “Peaceful Conflict Resolution” and the middle classes are taught “Peace with the Earth,” she said.

Many of those who attend are from the community and are not members of the church, she said.

Salford member Mary Jane Hershey, who got the idea for it from Quaker programs at Gwynedd Friends Meeting, introduced the idea for the peace camp to Salford, Ehst said.

“It really just goes along with our core values as Mennonites,” Ehst said.

Concert Sundaes are held 7 p.m. Sundays in the park at Reliance Road and Wile Avenue. The fifth show of the 10-concert season, Chapin’s appearance marked the halfway point. In contrast to some other years, none of the five had to be moved inside because of rain.

“We hate to go inside and this weather has just been a gift to us,” Martin said.

Attendees at the concerts are invited to take photos and submit those pictures to be posted on Concert Sundaes Facebook page.

“Luke Bennett, a member of our committee, has kind of amped up the Facebook page,” Martin said. “I think the photos entice people to come to the park, too.”

Three local teachers honored with National Teacher Awards

Salford Monica Araway
Monica Araway at the Salford Mennonite Childcare Center in Towamencin. Photo by Geoff Patton

by Victoria Wolk, reposted by permission from The Reporter Online

Three local teachers have been honored by the Terri Lynne Lokoff Child Care Foundation, a King of Prussia-based nonprofit “dedicated to making America better by improving early care and education,” according to its website.

Each year, the TLLCCF chooses approximately 50 teachers from across the country for its National Child Care Teacher Awards. The local award recipients this year are Monica Araya, Inga Mountain and Amy Wertz. To apply for the award, each teacher had to submit a proposal for a classroom enhancement project. The winners receive $500 to fund their projects, as well as $500 for personal use.

Monica Araya teaches 2 and 3-year-olds at the Salford Mennonite Child Care Center in Lansdale. About one-third of her toddlers have parents from other countries, Araya explained, so she chose to create a project based on international sports. “It’ll educate my children on the different cultures they have in their classroom,” she said.

The students will learn about sports such as soccer, baseball, cricket and bocce. To go along with each sport, Araya will invite parents to come in and talk about playing those sports when they were young. She also plans on incorporating related books into the project.

Her classroom recently celebrated Diversity Week, during which students were asked to share things from home that reflect their various cultures. “It’s showing them that it doesn’t matter what our friends look like; we can all still be friends,” Araya said. It’s important to teach them that lesson at a young age, she said.

In addition to learning about different cultures, the students will also learn about teamwork and have a chance to work on their developmental skills. It’s good for them to learn the “importance of moving around,” she said.

Inga Mountain, who teaches kids between ages 3 and 6 at the Montessori Children’s House in Horsham, proposed buying a light table for her classroom. Light tables, which are backlit by LED lights, were originally used by artists, she said. A few years ago, the tables started to move into preschool classrooms.

Light tables are perfect for things like tracing, which helps preschoolers with their hand-eye coordination, Mountain said. The tables can also be used for fingerpainting and mixing colors; if you put red on top of yellow, it will look orange.

Only one kid at a time will be allowed to use the table. That gets them to focus on the task at hand, Mountain said, something which has become increasingly difficult since the introduction of modern technology. “A lot of technology that we have is actually doing the opposite” of helping kids focus, she said. Mountain plans on buying the table in the coming months.

The third local winner is Amy Wertz, who is a teacher in an infant classroom at Upper Gwynedd Child Learning Center. Her idea was to create an infant sensory garden on one of the center’s playgrounds. “We want babies to experience things through their senses,” she said. “That’s how they learn.”

The garden will consist of two planters surrounding a four-foot-arch, which will be the focal point of the garden. The planters will hold brightly colored flowers, carrots, elephant ear plants and more, Wertz said. There will also be mint for the babies to smell, and shorter planters around the garden will contain rocks and sand for them to touch.

“The garden takes a lot of upkeep, but I’m very passionate about it,” Wertz said. The project costs a little more than the $500 awarded by the TLLCCF, she said, but the child care center has offered to fund the rest.

In April, Araya, Mountain and Wertz will join winning teachers from around the country at Philadelphia’s Please Touch Museum for a special ceremony.

Souderton’s Chestnut St Playground to be done by summer

Souderton playground
Pastor Gerry Clemmer of Souderton Mennonite Church, right, talks about a walkway that will wind through the revamped playground planned for Chestnut Street and Wile Avenue in Souderton. At left is Jen Ruggiero, who works with Clemmer on the playground plans as part the Chesnut Street Playground Community CARES project she set up with neighbor Tara Cupitt.

by Bob Keeler, The Reporter Online (reposted by permission)

Can you tell they’re excited?

“We have a builder!!! We have a builder!!! Yahooooo,” Chestnut Street Playground Community Cares Facebooked Jan. 7. “Groundbreaking info coming ASAP!!!”

The night before, Souderton Borough Council had approved the winning bid of $267,200.05 from Puhl’s Landscape Co., West Conshohocken, to do the planned renovations at the longtime playground at Wile Avenue and Chestnut Street.

The work will replace and upgrade aging playground equipment, as well as add features for special needs children and interactive pieces to stimulate children’s senses and learning. Community fundraising is helping pay for the project.

In September, the borough rejected all the bids received for the project after the bids came in at much more than had been expected.

Changes were then made to the plans, including dropping, at least for the time being, the installation of public restrooms at the playground. New bids were then sought.

“We attracted far more bidders the second time,” Borough Manager Mike Coll said.

The prices were also better.

“The borough engineer’s estimate was $301,000, so it’s well below the engineer’s estimates,” Coll said of the winning bid.

The cost of the work will be covered by a $195,000 Community Development Block Grant and $80,000 that came from community fundraising, he said.

“We’d like to start the project as soon as possible, with completion by June,” Coll said.

When the initial bids were sought, it was for a specific type of equipment and supplier, which probably hiked prices, officials said when those bids were rejected.

To make the new bids more competitive, bidders were given a few more options of suppliers and equipment that would be acceptable, but that apparently won’t change the end result.

“I believe under Puhl’s proposal, they are actually providing a lot of the equipment we had originally specified,” Coll said.

In another matter at the Jan. 6 council meeting, police Chief James Leary said several people and organizations, including the Souderton-Telford Rotary Club, Souderton police and borough, Generations of Indian Valley and Souderton Mennonite Church, contributed to a holiday giving campaign for local families in need.

Seven families received “an entire Christmas,” he said, with others who needed some assistance but whose needs were less also assisted.

“I don’t know how many families benefitted, but it certainly was a lot,” Leary said.

The Rotary set up a successful Toys for Tots type collection, Godshall and Hatfield Meats each contributed hams and Generations volunteers shopped for gift items, then declined part or all reimbursement for the purchases, he said.

“We ended up with so many lists and we actually had the resources to fill the lists,” Leary said.

The contributions also included home heating oil for two families, he said.

First summit of the Mennonite Early Childhood Network

Front, left to right: Tracy Hough, assistant professor of education, Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Va.; Kathryn Aschliman, MECN coordinator and emeriti professor of early childhood education, Goshen (Ind.) College; Linda Martin, former director, Salford Mennonite Child Care Centers, Harleysville, Pa.; Standing, left to right: Louise Matthews, director, The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center of Bluffton (Ohio) University; Tami Keim, professor of early childhood education, Hesston (Kan.) College; Elaine Moyer, senior director, Mennonite Education Agency; June Hershberger, founder of Early Childhood Innovative Connections and executive director, Diamond Street Early Childhood Center, Akron, Pa.; Linda Taylor, assistant professor of early childhood education, Ball State University, Muncie, Ind.

by Louise Matthews, Mennonite Education Agency

Eight women, six of whom were current members of the Mennonite Early Childhood Network (MECN) Council, gathered in the home of Linda and Vernon Martin of Salford congregation (Harleysville, Pa.), March 15-17, for the first summit meeting of MECN. Since 2006, members of the MECN Council have been meeting through monthly conference calls to provide information and support for parents and early educators of children, birth through kindergarten, primarily through e-mails to members and on its website.

Kathryn Aschliman, MECN coordinator, and Elaine Moyer, Mennonite Education Agency (MEA) senior director, former principal of Christopher Dock Mennonite High School, and a member of Salford congregation, planned the agenda and facilitated the event for early childhood professionals from Indiana, Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The three-day summit included time to reflect on the mission statement, to explore current trends in care and education of young children, and to brainstorm about ways that MECN can continue to provide support for others in the early childhood field. The need for additional funding for MECN initiatives and resources was also discussed.

For a glimpse of local programs, Linda Martin provided an opportunity for attendees to visit Salford Mennonite Child Care Centers (SMCCC) in two locations: Salford Mennonite Church and the intergenerational child care program located in the Dock Woods Retirement Community in Lansdale (Pa.). Linda was the director of SMCCC for nearly 20 years and is currently serving on the board.

As an initial outcome of the summit, MECN will invite responses from churches, child care and education programs, and parents through a needs assessment survey to learn how MECN can best serve young children through the adults who teach and care for them. Responses to the survey will clarify the needs and help determine direction for future MECN initiatives.

According to Moyer, “MECN continues to support the very important future of the church—young children. It was a privilege to be with a group of educational leaders dedicated to early childhood education, wondering how MECN can best network and support parents, churches and early childhood centers.”

Louise Matthews, director of The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center of Bluffton University, led the Sunday morning worship. Reflecting on the message highlighted in the picture book, Different Just Like Me by Lori Mitchell, she said “We are gifted differently and have unique opportunities to be advocates for young children in direct and indirect ways through our various roles as educators and directors.”  Inspired by her involvement with MECN, Louise is in the early phase of creating an online resource called “Books & More” in the form of short video clips to highlight books and follow-up activities for those who work with young children. These YouTube videos will be accessible at www.bluffton.edu/lionlamb in the near future.

June Hershberger, founder of Early Childhood Innovative Connections  and executive director of Diamond Street Early Childhood Center in Akron, Pa., commented, “As a center director, I would like teacher resources and classroom resources that relate specifically to Anabaptist views on issues such as peaceful reconciliation of conflict, nonviolent classrooms and the use of technology with young children, as well as faith-indicators for MEA accreditation at the prekindergarten level and possibly endorsement of age-appropriate peace and Bible curriculum.”

Aschliman summarized the summit well: “What a memorable weekend it was!—such hospitality of caring for body and soul; such group synergy; such long-term visioning; such inspiration, such passion for young children, their families, and the church.  We departed with the assurance that ‘The God of love and peace shall be with you (II Cor. 13:11).’”

For more information about MECN, visit www.MennoniteEducation.org/MECN.