Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Mar 31, 2015 | 0 comments

The Butterfly Challenge

NPHC Collaboration-IAtoNY2A

I invite you to take a close look at the images above. Notice that some remarkable, almost unheard of things are happening in these classrooms where the Not Perfect Hat Club has been enthusiastically embraced.

The classroom on the left is a group of thirteen 7th and 8th grade “Special Ed” students in Whitehall, New York. The class on the right is a group of eighteen 3rd graders in the rural town of Webster, Iowa.

The Not Perfect Hat Cub concept and its goals – to celebrate differences and give every kid a place to hang a hat – was introduced to the students in Whitehall at the start of the school year. The students, and their enterprising teacher Deb Aubin, made the Not Perfect Hat Club their own, raising more than $600 by designing, sewing, marketing and selling Not Perfect Hats not only to other students, teachers and families, but to local businesses and even some overseas customers as well. You can read about their extraordinary journey and the resulting news coverage here:

Not Perfect Hat Club on CBS6:

Special Education Students Soar to New Heights:

It should come as no surprise then that when Tammy Massman’s third grade class in Iowa began its own Not Perfect Hat Club project, the students in Whitehall were eager to help. Using Skype, the two teachers brought the students together for a crash course in Not Perfect Hat Club manufacturing and selling.

The Whitehall students did a fantastic job of describing the process of deciding how much and what kind of fabric to buy, itemizing the costs for supplies (fabric, thread, pins, packaging and mailing), and detailing their new found marketing and promotion skills, which included creating a bulletin board and flyers, writing letters to local businesses to ask for sponsorship, setting up and manning a sales table, building a “hat tree” to display their hats, and hosting a Not Perfect Hat Club contest.

Over night, the kids no one noticed or made fun of for being different, became the talk of the school and town.  Now they were being celebrated for their entrepreneurial spirit and given the opportunity to learn another important skill – how to pass their knowledge and wisdom on to others. We call this the Not Perfect Hat Club “Butterfly Effect.”


There are many versions of the Not Perfect Hat Club for schools to choose from, and we will work with you to find the best fit and the best way to bring the concept to your school.  Take a look at the list of positive learning outcomes shared with us by students, teachers, administrators, parents and community members who have participated in Not Perfect Hat Club events. Then follow the links below to see what other schools are doing.


  • Perfect is not an option
  • Learning is a process not a destination
  • Each person is unique and has something important to contribute
  • You, your voice and your special abilities matter
  • It is possible to make a difference in the world
  • Skills learned in school can be used to do positive things in the real-world
  • Everyone has a vested interest in what and how we teach our children
  • Differences are a good thing
  • Believe in yourself
  • Never give up


  • The ability to empathize with and appreciate others
  • Multi-generational collaboration
  • Mentorship
  • Math and financial planning, including determining how much to charge to make a profit
  • Reading, writing and vocabulary
  • Design and execution of a product
  • Creative collaboration and teamwork
  • Logical thinking and planning
  • Teaching and demonstration
  • Sewing
  • Woodworking
  • Designing and creating presentations
  • Public speaking
  • Marketing and promotion
  • Sales
  • Business communication
  • Self-empowerment
  • Multi-media, multi-modal skills such as drawing, photography, blogging, video making, digital storytelling


The Not Perfect Hat Club in Whitehall, New York:

The Not Perfect Hat Club in Warren, Texas:

The Not Perfect Hat Club in Cooperstown, North Dakota:

The Not Perfect Hat Club in Sydney, Australia:

The Not Perfect Hat Club in Bolingbrook, Illinois:

The Not Perfect Hat Club in Manila, Philippines:

The Not Perfect Hat Club in Syracuse, New York:


 To Schedule Your Own Not Perfect Hat Club Reading and Event Contact:

Jena Ball
Phone: (919) 454-9917

Copyright 2015 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.

Read More

Posted by on Mar 29, 2015 | 0 comments

Squirrel Whisperer


An extraordinary thing happened today. I opened the blinds that cover the sliding glass door to my back porch and found a young squirrel clinging to the screen. It didn’t look sick, but then again it didn’t seem in the least bit surprised or upset to see me or my very large, very excited orange cat. It simply clung to the screen, moving up and down and letting out a sharp little squeak every now and then.

Unsure what to do, I sent a quick text to friend who rehabs wildlife for a living. While waiting for her reply, the squirrel abruptly climbed down and ran away. “Problem solved,” I thought, and went back to my writing. Imagine my surprise when the squirrel returned a few minutes later with a friend. Same size, same bright button eyes and bushy tail. Now I had TWO baby squirrels on my screen. “Surely this isn’t normal,” I typed to my friend.

“No, not normal, but they are too young to survive on their own,” said my friend the rehabber. “Try to catch them and put them in a box or a cat carrier. Then, call George.”

“Who’s George?” I texted back.

“Rehabber who specializes in squirrels, opossums and otters.”


Well I confess the whole idea seemed a bit preposterous. I once lived on the edge of a wildlife preserve where we were routinely visited by elk, bear, coons, white-tailed deer, antelope and once a mountain lion. If there was one thing I had drummed into my head time and time again, it was “Don’t feed or touch the wildlife!”

The other thing I couldn’t quite figure out was how I was supposed to catch the little critters. Squirrels are wild, nervous and fast. What was I supposed to do, sneak up on them, throw a towel over their heads and whisk them into the carrier?


So I sat and watched and tried to feel what was the right thing to do. There was something about the baby squirrels, clinging so tenaciously to the screen, that felt important. These weren’t just any squirrels, I realized. They were MY squirrels, my little gift from the universe today and it was up to me to decide what to do.

In the end, I put on my mittens, grabbed an old towel and put a soft piece of fleece in the cat carrier before going out “catch” the squirrels. The instant they saw me the second squirrel ran off with an indignant squawk, leaving his baby sister to fend for herself. I stood quietly for a few seconds, then picked up the towel, wrapped it around her and gently detached her toenails from the screen.

I wouldn’t say she enjoyed the process but she didn’t fight terribly hard or try to bite. And I confess that holding her – feeling her heart beat a mile a minute in the palm of my hand – was a moment of pure joy. For the few seconds it took to transfer her gently to the carrier the wall between “them and us,” “wild and tame,” “human and animal” came down. I was doing what I am always encouraging kids to do – showing empathy and kindness to another living thing. It felt right. It felt good, and I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was the one who had been given the gift – been reminded that the single most important lesson we can teach our kids is to lead with their hearts.

George, the squirrel rehabber, met me at a local mall. Before transferring my little friend to his carrier, he took a moment to open her mouth and show me that she was too young to have teeth. “You did the right thing,” he said. “She can’t eat solid food yet.”

Tomorrow I will be on the lookout for the second baby squirrel and any additional lessons the universe has to teach me.  – Jena Ball


Read More

Posted by on Mar 17, 2015 | 0 comments

Frogs, Colanders, Ice Cream and Not Perfect Hats

Nothing Like2B

 The Magic of Not Perfect Hats!

 I know, I know that’s an impossibly long title for a blog post, but I couldn’t resist, and it really should have been longer! What do frogs, antennae, ice cream birthday cakes, fake purple hair, colanders, pirates, jelly beans, blueberries , lemons and red apples all have in common? Not Perfect Hats and a wonderfully imaginative, up-for-anything-class of second graders willing to ponder what it means to be “Not Perfect” by creating Not Perfect Hats.

The results of our efforts are pictured above. The amazing thing to me was that every student knew exactly what his or her hat said about his or her personality.  “I’m a birthday kind of girl,” said Amy. “I like tall hats and lots of presents.” Billy said that he liked frogs and blueberries. The connection between the two still isn’t clear to me, but judging by the big grin on his face, it was something funny. Then there was Joshua who drew what looked like a house, but turned out to be a “Hat Jar” for jelly beans (he likes the orange ones best).

All in all, it was a laughter filled hour in which the kids and I discussed everything from why certain colors make us smile and why it’s impossible to be perfect. We also had a lively debate about Joshua’s jelly beans and decided that butterflies should come in shades of aqua marine, hot pink and lime green.  It was quite a visit that left me feeling energized and amazed by the curiosity, creativity and compassion that come so naturally to kids.

It also left me with a question. Instead of trying to “teach” and “test” our kids, why don’t we empower them to explore who and what they want to be? Why don’t we encourage and help them to develop the emotional skills they’ll need to cope in an increasingly complex world? Most important of all, why don’t we allow them to teach us? Let them remind us what it means to be curious, playful and willing to throw our whole hearts into something knowing that no one is perfect and making mistakes is all part of this ongoing process called life?

Many thanks for the learning today kids. To be continued!  – Jena Ball

To Schedule Your Own Not Perfect Hat Club Visit, Contact
Jena Ball
Phone: (919) 454-9917

Read More

Posted by on Mar 6, 2015 | 0 comments

Perfectly Not Perfect X 18


Click HERE or on the Image to read the Complete Story

It’s been almost a year since I first met the third graders  you see pictured above, and if there’s one thing they’ve taught me it’s that each and every kid is special. Each and every kid brings a unique set of experiences, memories, abilities and dreams to a class, which in turn becomes its own laboratory of learning. In the hands of a teacher like Tammy Massman, it’s a chance for each child to evolve, explore, practice real-world skills and learn the all important lesson that no one is perfect. Or, as my friend Rylee likes to say, “You can only be perfect at being yourself.”

Yesterday, something extraordinary happened as a result of our work together on the Not Perfect Hat Club in Tammy’s class. You can read all about it in the terrific article written by  Teresa Wood at The Daily Freeman Journal entitled, ” NEH third-grader’s project, blog capture national attention.”

It goes without saying that we are proud as punch of Rylee, but it wouldn’t be fair not to acknowledge and celebrate the teacher and classmates whose laughter, tears, and unflagging joie de vivre made it possible for Rylee to shine. Each and every one of  Rylee’s classmates is extraordinary in his or her own way. Each and every one has touched my heart and challenged me to keep working on my own dreams. By way of illustration, I like to tell the story of  logging onto Twitter to find a Tweet from the class. “Is your new book done? Can you send it to us? We want to read it!”

Unfortunately I am still in the process of writing and raising money to complete the book and make the related teaching materials available, so I had to tell the kids there was no book to send yet. Undeterred they immediately offered to help, typing all in caps, “YOU CAN DO IT!”

If you’d like to know more about the Not Perfect Hat Club, and the remarkable projects the kids have be been working on, just follow the links below. Better yet, please consider supporting our crowdfunding campaign by hosting a Not Perfect Hat Club Day of your own.  – Jena Ball

The Not Perfect Hat Club:

NEH Pinterest Board

The NEH Kindness Quilt

Schedule a Not Perfect Hat Club Visit

Jena Ball
Phone: (919) 454-9917

Copyright 2015 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.












Read More

Posted by on Mar 5, 2015 | 0 comments

The ELLEN Show Features the NPHC’s First Kid Blogger


Rylee and Ellen Show1

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 the Not Perfect Hat Club, visit:


Copyright 2015 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.


Read More