Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Most recent articles

Panthers and Not Perfect Hats

Posted by on May 18, 2015 in News | 0 comments


panther Collage1
See more images of our Not Perfect Hat Club adventures here:

Panthers are not the kind of animal you usually associate with kindness. They’re big, powerful  cats (weighing in at 130 to 160 lbs.) with a reputation for being stealthy and  efficient hunters. Happily, the panthers CritterKin has been working with for the past two years at  Nate Perry Elementary School in Liverpool, New York are a different breed of cat all together.  Open-minded, curious and eager to collaborate, the only things the educators at Nate Perry are interested in hunting are ways to expand and enhance their students’ worlds.

Nate Perry was one of the first to reach out to us about incorporating the CritterKin Kindness programs into their school, and have become beloved members of CritterKin’s growing global family.  The latest collaboration between CritterKin and Nate Perry is The Not Perfect Hat Club. The school helped us raise funds for the completion of the new “Not Perfect Hat Club” book and will be hosting a Not Perfect Hat Club Day at their school on May 26th.

In preparation for the big day, Ms. Jenaia stopped by Nate Perry via Google Hangouts to read the first chapter of the book and discuss what it means to be “Not Perfect.”  As always, the students’ responses were eye-opening and revealing. Some of the adjectives used to describe “Not Perfect” included “ugly, stupid, not happy, mad at myself,” and “not natural.”  Clearly students have internalized the belief that they are expected to be perfect, and judge themselves harshly when they can’t be.  In response, we share the “Famous Failures” video below with them, and had a good discussion afterwards about the importance of accepting that no one is perfect and that people learn by making mistakes.


Michael Jordan1

Click here or on the image above to see the video

Our time together ended with each student drawing and sharing a Not Perfect Hat that reflected what makes him or her perfectly Not Perfect. The students’ drawings were creative, playful and full of self-awareness. As one 5th grader put it, “I’m pretty outgoing and creative. I’m just me!”  We thought that was a perfect response!

If you would like to know more about CritterKin and the Not Perfect Hat Club, please visit: and

Better yet, bring the Not Perfect Hat Club to your school! To find out how, please give us a call or send us an email.  We’d love to have you and your school become members of the CritterKin family.


Karin Lippert: (647) 478 – 5618





Copyright 2015 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.


The Good, The Bad & Everything In Between

Posted by on May 10, 2015 in News | 0 comments

WIS and Dates

Creating a Global Network of
Connected, Colorful Educators in a Black and White World

 Historically, the world of education has been dominated by black-and-white, either-or-thinking. A student passes or fails, is an overachiever or an underachiever, is gifted or has special needs. The problem with this all-or-nothing thinking is that it polarizes and focuses us on what divides rather than what unites us.

Happily, as educators begin to reach outside their individual classrooms, schools and countries to connect with colleagues around the world, we are discovering that differences are to be embraced, explored and celebrated. As many of us like to say, “We are better together.”

 This week CritterKin will be co-moderating the #WhatIsSchool education chat where we will focus on the benefits of and strategies for creating a global network of connected educators whose many and diverse ways of seeing and being in the world are laying the foundation for positive change.

 We hope that we will be joined not only by educators but by businesses, organizations, government agencies, parents and anyone else who  understands that we all have a stake in what and how we teach our children.


 Welcome to #WhatisSchool Today we’re discussing what it takes to build a global education community and what it might look like.

Introductions: Please tell us who and where you are, and how you got into education.

Q1: How has education changed since you first started teaching and where do you see it heading?

Q2: If a globally connected network of educators appeals to you, tell us why. If not, tell us why not.

Q3: What are some themes or topics of interest you hear all educators talking about?

Q4: Why is it so important to share successes, failure and everything in between as we build our global network?

Q5:  How can student voices be woven into the the discussion? What role should students play in the process?

Q6: Give us one example of a colorful, global project that includes learning from success, failure and diversity.

Challenge: Share an idea or project you’re excited about & tell us how we can help. DM Jena to be added to our discussion group on Slack.

Bridge 2 Nepal

Posted by on May 1, 2015 in News | 0 comments


I feel often that we don’t have the right language to talk about emotions in disasters. Everyone is on edge, of course, but it also pulls people away from a lot of trivial anxieties and past and future concerns and gratuitous preoccupations that we have, and refocuses us in a very intense way… In some ways, people behave better than in ordinary life and in some disasters people find [out about] the meaningful role of deep social connections and see their absence in everyday life.”   - Rebecca Solnit, author of A Paradise Built in Hell

Rebecca’s Solnit’s quote describes beautifully what we’ve been seeing and hearing as the educators we’ve come to know and respect as friends and colleagues in Nepal respond with courage, generosity and resilience to the devastating earthquake that hit their country last Saturday.

Like many of you, we at CritterKin and PledgeCents wanted to find a way to help support the work that will need to be done to rebuild the schools and support the teachers and children as they recover from the physical and psychological effects of the disaster. We also see this as a wonderful opportunity to bring our global education network together – to remind one another that we are not only better together but responsible for supporting and cheering one another on as well.

Our #Bridge2Nepal crowdfunding campaign is LIVE!  Visit: and help us rebuild the schools of Nepal one brick at a time.


Brick Wall-Framed2



Hey, I Can Do That!

Posted by on Apr 10, 2015 in News | 0 comments

Broken Bridge1A


Marty Keltz and Jena Ball

Anyone who’s been in education any length of time knows the feeling. A TED talk, blog post or quote shared by a colleague reignites your passion for teaching; a child’s eyes light up as she discovers the answer to a question; and something you hear in a Twitter chat makes you sit up, take notice and think, “Hey, I can do that!” We call those feelings, “aha moments,” and we’ve been having them for several weeks now during a Twitter chat called, #Edtechbridge.

Despite its techie title, the real power of #Edtechbridge lies in the bridges participants are forging between industrial era, one-size fits all approaches to education – which quality test children like cars coming off an assembly line – and 21st century models, which stress the importance of teaching the whole child by finding and nurturing what makes each unique.

Educators who show up for #Edtechbridge not only articulate, discuss and suggest real-world solutions to issues facing teachers, but propose alternative, some might say disruptive, approaches to educational reform as well. That many of these discussions include technology is to be expected, but are nothing new. The equivalent of today’s Genius Hour and Maker Movement were already happening in the mid 1960s during the Media Literacy movement, and were supported, in part, by the first federal title grants (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) under Lyndon Johnson. What distinguishes #Edtechbridge is the opportunity to meet and collaborate with a global community of educators who not only inspire but empower one another as well.

The best and most exciting example of empowerment we can offer is the conversation about crowdfunding and disruptive technologies that began two weeks ago. Participants were discussing their frustration with the one-size fits all approach to education, in which 85% of instructional material dollars go to purchase basal textbooks produced by a handful of publishers with little or no input from classroom teachers. This leaves little or no money for what have come to be called “supplemental or enrichment materials” designed to deepen and personalize learning for individual children.

During that initial discussion, we talked about resources, such as PledgeCents and DonorsChoose, that give teachers a way to raise funds for their “supplemental and enrichment materials.” However, subsequent chats have taken the discussion to new and deeper levels. While it’s certainly possible to raise money to purchase art supplies, band instruments and even outdated textbooks, other questions were raised. Why not harness the power of crowdfunding – supported and enhanced by parents, community members, entrepreneurs, and organizations – to fund “real” educational reform? What happens if we start with the premise that we must teach the whole child – mind, body and emotions – regardless of how that child learns? What if we set out to find, purchase and implement educational programs that incorporate multimedia/multi-modal approaches and support the teaching of 21st century skills that include empathy, compassion, collaboration, appreciation for differences and kindness?

Forging potentially powerful alliances between crowdfunding platforms, creative storytelling platforms like Touchcast, and all who have a stake in what and how we teach our kids could have a very disruptive and positive effect on the current system. Instead of focusing on one-size fits all teaching models and high stakes testing, which do little to prepare students to be the collaborative, innovative and creative thinkers most employers say they want to hire (, this new, grassroots business model would be driven by the needs of students and guided by classroom teachers. It would shift the attention from widgets, offering new and better ways to implement and test Common Core Standards, and focus it instead on multi-media storytelling and project based learning. Students would learn through relevant, real-world experiences and become content creators as well. Young film makers, animators, designers, scientists, artists, musicians, writers and mathematicians would be given tools to think creatively, work collaboratively and above all believe that they have something unique and valuable to contribute to the world. Or, as our friend Christina Luce, (herself a deeply committed and creative educator) recently wrote, “We need to embrace curiosity, and cultivate wonder. We need to play, and infuse joy. This need not be a pipe dream, no pie in the sky ideal; no. We are the architects, the innovators, the creators, the voices that together must demand it and make it so.”


#Edtechbridge convenes every Wednesday evening at 7:00 pm (EST), 4:00 pm (PST) and Thursday morning at 9:00 am AEST. Won’t you join us?

All the Difference

Posted by on Apr 3, 2015 in News | 0 comments


Raod Less Traveled2A


I have loved and identified with Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken” for more than 30 years.  There’s something about choosing to follow a path that isn’t clear and will undoubtedly require course corrections that feels right to me. I have never fit in any role (though I certainly tried hard enough), and most jobs I’ve taken felt like straight jackets. I still laugh at the memory of my mother asking me why I wanted to pursue art in college. “You’re so good with your hands,” she said. “Why don’t you become a dentist?”

It was only when I finally stopped trying to fit into the boxes that others tried to assign me – bus driver, swimming coach, cook, office manager, journalist, editor, illustrator, teacher, textbook writer  - that I began to feel like I belonged in my own skin. That’s not to say that it’s been easy, wearing the many and often conflicting Not Perfect hats that are required to start and build your own company, but it feels a whole lot better than pretending to be someone I’m not. Oh, and here’s the other thing.  People are drawn to authenticity. They sense and respond to those who feel good about what they’re doing, who believe they can have a positive impact on the world.

Which brings me to teachers. I come from a long line of committed, caring teachers who have struggled with the low pay, lack of acknowledgement and increasingly restrictive rules. I have also done my time as an educator, teaching ESL for more than 9 years in Japan. But I have to say that the educators I’ve been meeting recently are a new and exciting breed. Yes, I hear them struggling with the many and ongoing challenges of the job, but there’s something in the air, something exciting about how they are coming together to collaborate, share and remind one another that there is nothing more important than what and how we teach our kids.

I am drawn to these teachers and they to me, and, though I have no idea where all this collective enthusiasm, intelligence and pent up desire to create positive change will lead, I believe in our less traveled roads. I believe we  WILL make a difference.