We’re excited to report that Not Perfect Hat Club member, Rylee Keehn, has been featured on the ELLEN show’s website! The article is based on the blog Rylee wrote for the Not Perfect Hat Club’s Kid Blog on February 26, 2015. Entitled, “You Can Only be Perfect at Being Yourself,” the blog talks about the importance of seeing yourself as awesome, as opposed to perfect, and tells the story of Rylee’s new project – making clothes for homeless dogs.
We could not be happier that the Not Perfect Hat Club has begun its global journey via the ELLEN show. Helping children understand that no one is perfect, and to think of themselves as awesome, is at the heart of the Not Perfect Hat Club mission. We want every kid to have a place to hang a hat and give them entertaining and fun ways to explore differences and learn empathy, compassion and kindness.
To learn more about how you can earn rewards and support the Not Perfect Hat Club, visit: https://pubslush.com/project/4118
“There’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” - Scott Adams
Three years ago, while sipping a grande Americano at my favorite table at my favorite Starbucks in Cary, North Carolina the word “CritterKin” popped into my head. As a writer, words pop in and out of my head all the time, but this one was different. I liked the meaning – animals (critters) are family (kin) – and the childlike, playful sound it made as I whispered it aloud to myself. Here was a word that had lots to say, and I could hardly wait to get started.
Writing each of the books in the CritterKin series (there are four now with a fifth on its way) has been a conscious act of kindness. Every time I sit down to write a new book, I give my characters another piece of the kindness puzzle to figure out. Kindness, you see, is a catchall word. It’s used so much and in so many situations that its meaning gets watered down. Ask any elementary school student what kindness means and you’re liable hear meaningless cliches like, “Nice, good, neat,” or as one creative second grader put it, “nice means I can’t hit my brother.”
To really get myself and kids thinking about what it means to be kind, I started writing stories that would let us explore why people are unkind. I wrote about Ricky Bobby, a paralyzed puppy mill survivor whose life was saved by an act of kindness. I based another book on an exuberant dachshund who can’t stop digging, and a third on a big black pit bull who experiences prejudice and fear because of his ferocious looks and size.
Then, after reading the stories, I started looking for ways the kids and I could use our kindness to make a difference. We drew pictures and wrote stories to get homeless dogs adopted. We created Kindness Quilts, Kindness Gardens, Kindness blogs, and even a kindness newspaper called “The Des Moines Doggy Daily.” Then, about six months ago, I came up with my best kindness project yet – The Not Perfect Hat Club!
The goal of the Not Perfect Hat Club is to give every kid a place to hang a hat and help them understand that no one is perfect. Or, or as my little, third grade friend Rylee likes to say, “You can only be perfect at being yourself.”
Rylee is one of 18 students in Tammy Massman’s third grade class in the tiny town of Blairsburg, Iowa. I’d been visiting Tammy’s class – reading, writing, drawing and creating kindness projects – for almost a year when I thought of The Not Perfect Hat Club, so it was a logical place to take the idea for a test drive. Little did I know how quickly and creatively the kids would embrace the idea. They took one look at my Not Perfect battered green sun hat and started making hats of their own – Ninja hats, rainbow hats, hats shaped like trash cans, ski masks and baseball caps. There was even an invisible hat that its creator swore gave him superpowers. Best of all, every time we donned our hats, we gave ourselves permission to make mistakes and have fun while we learned.
In the latest iteration of The Not Perfect Hat Club, Tammy’s students are working on blogs that describe what makes them each perfectly Not Perfect. The first to complete her blog and have it published on the CritterKin site was Rylee. Rylee wrote about her three passions – sewing, animals and art – and how she is using them to make clothes for shelter dogs.
I am delighted to report that Rylee’s wonderful project is the subject of this terrific an article on the Ellen Degeneras Show web site: http://www.ellentv.com/2015/03/04/third-grader-finds-perfect-way-to-help-rescue-dogs/ where she shares her Not Perfect Hat Club wisdom, saying “We can’t do everything right, so it’s good to keep trying.”
Scott Adams got it right when he said, “Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” Every day a ripple created by the kindness inherent in the CritterKin books and projects like The Not Perfect Hat Club touches more and more people, reminding us all that the future of our complex, confusing and conflicted world depends on teaching our children empathy, compassion and kindness.
To learn more about the Not Perfect Hat Club and how you can support our efforts to complete the Not Perfect Hat Club book and make teaching materials available to classrooms around the world, visit: https://pubslush.com/project/4118
Before we talk about the kindness quilt, let’s talk about fifth graders. They are fearless and full of energy; completely uninhibited one moment and painfully self-conscious the next. They love to learn but have begun to think about what it means to be cool. This means they will occasionally fake disinterest, but it doesn’t last long. Their natural curiosity and desire to leap into things feet first will have them asking questions and volunteering opinions in no time. Oh, and fifth graders are not above getting messy and making mistakes.
All of this came as a pleasant and amusing surprise when I first met Cara Cahill’s 5th grade class in Missouri. Cara is the kind of teacher who gives her kids a lot of leeway to explore, talk, ask questions and figure things out on their own. She had no problem letting me brainstorm and test various ideas for the quilt with the kids. Likewise, they had no problem sharing their opinions and asking questions. It wasn’t long before we’d decided on the design with the hearts in the center (see above), as opposed to the one with the tree (which the boys vetoed for being too girly), and were hard at work creating the hearts for the center.
In our subsequent visits, we:
- Did the math required to figure out the size of both the overall quilt and each of the smaller pieces that would compose it;
- Listed and chose “Kind” words to go around the center section;
- Colored and cut out the letters to form the words:
- Stood side-by-side and created acrostic poems using each of the letters; and
- Began the process of creating individual pieces in which each student would tell the story of his/her experiences making the quilt.
We also talked about doing augmented reality using, using the students’ individual drawings as the “triggers” for the videos and planned a final event where the students would have the chance to show their quilt to family and friends.
Then the holidays and all the accompanying excitement and busy schedules descended upon us and our quilt got put on hold. We’ll see what the new year brings, but in the meantime I can honestly say that the kids and I have more than accomplished what we set out to do with our Kindness Quilt. We’ve imagined, designed and built all the pieces for a beautiful piece of art and practiced all kinds of important skills like reading, writing, math, cooperation, collaboration and how to be kind to one another. All that and we had a GREAT time doing it! It doesn’t get much better than that.
N: Not Perfect
O: Opinions of mine aren’t always right but I don’t care as long as I am having fun
T: To be Not Perfect means that I can’t do everything
P: Perfectly NOT perfect
E: Even if I get a great score at gymnastics it is still not perfect
R: Really great times aren’t even perfect
F: Fun times means not being perfect but you still get excited
E: Even sometimes I get things wrong
C: Cause I’m not perfect makes me happy
T: The Not Perfect Hat Club is something to show people you can’t be perfect
In school we started talking about the Not Perfect Hat Club. The Not Perfect Hat Club helps show kids that even though they aren’t perfect, they can still do awesome things. We all have different things that we are good at and different passions. You can only be perfect at being yourself. That’s what makes us perfectly not perfect.
My mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I said either something that has to do with designing or animals or art, because they are my passions, and mom thought we could find a way to put them all together. That’s how we started making dog clothes for shelter dogs. I wanted to pick shelter and rescue dogs because they don’t have owners or families to take care of them yet. Shelter dogs have to be shaved sometimes because they can be dirty or their fur is ruined and they will need to keep warm. The problem is, neither of us knows how to make dog clothes. But the dogs don’t care if the clothes are perfect, they just want to be warm.
For Christmas I got a sewing machine from my grandma and my other grandma taught me how to use it. We made a practice shirt for our dog Opie. Opie is a rescue dog. We made the shirt out of my brother’s old onesie. We are collecting more onesies to keep making clothes.
One day when my mom and I were home alone we made more clothes. They are not perfect. It took a lot of tries to make them, but we did it. The sewing machine kept eating the shirts and making holes. We kept getting fabric and thread stuck in the sewing machine. We had to re-thread the sewing machine, so we used YouTube to tell us how to fix the bobbin. We just have to keep learning. The shirts are not perfect. We tried the orange one on Opie, and told him, “Sorry for the lace on it!” We added the lace to the shirt to make it look pretty and to cover a hole. We’re going to keep working on our designs.
My favorite quote I found on the internet says, “Don’t judge me. I was born to be awesome, not perfect.” Even though I am not perfect I can still do awesome work and help animals who need someone to love them. Being able to make something for the animals makes me feel helpful. Everyone should find a way to use their passions to keep learning, keep trying, and keep helping others.
Rylee is in third grade. She loves animals, sewing, gymnastics and helping others. To read more about Rylee’s perfectly Not Perfect world, visit: http://ryleebrianne.blogspot.com/
The Not Perfect Hat Club is raising funds to complete the Not Perfect Hat Club book and make visits to classrooms like Rylee’s possible around the world. Please click on the link above to support our efforts and see the wonderful rewards your school and classes can receive.
To learn more about Not Perfect Hat Club fundraisers, please visit: http://notperfecthatclub.com/crowdfunding/raise-funds/
If you would like one your children to be featured in the Not Perfect Hat Club blog, please contact: JenaBall@CritterKin.com
CritterKin is proud to announce that our third book, Lead With Your Heart, has been chosen to appear on PACER’s (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights) National Bullying Prevention Center BOOK CLUB page: http://www.pacer.org/bullying/resources/book-club.asp
Founded in 1977, PACER Center was created by parents of children and youth with disabilities to help other parents and families facing similar challenges. Then, in 2006, PACER developed the National Bullying Prevention and Awareness Week campaign in response to the need to raise awareness of bullying.
You can meet the characters and learn more about the anti-bullying messages in Lead With Your Heart by going here: http://critterkin.com/ifaw2/lead-with-your-heart-2/
More information about PACER’s history and its wonderful anti-bullying efforts can be obtained by visiting this site: http://www.pacer.org/bullying/
There’s nothing quite so rewarding as seeing the results of your hard work and dreams reflected in the smiles of kids. Today, the very first official Not Perfect Hat Club launched in Whitehall, New York as Deb Aubin’s 12 “Special Ed” kids proved once again that they are VERY special indeed. Watch this amazing video that is airing on CBS 6 news in Albany, New York. Then read the inspirational story that appeared in the PostStar, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009.
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Please help us make the Not Perfect Hat Club and related teaching materials available to schools and students around the world by supporting our fundraising campaign. You can learn all about it by watching the video below and visiting our crowdfunding page: https://pubslush.com/project/4118
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