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Looking back on Summer 2017

Thanks to your support we’ve been able to deliver a wide range of programs over the last few months to unleash the creative potential in youth around the world. Here are some highlights of what you’ve helped us achieve:

  • In June we ran a series of Creative Facilitation trainings in Athens for Teachers supporting the integration of refugee children into education in Greece with partner Elix, building their toolkit of methods to build inclusion and participation in their work
  • We ran a Creative Facilitation session for 20 front-line intercultural workers in Barcelona, Spain in partnership with the City of Barcelona equipping them with arts-based facilitation skills for their community work
  • We partnered with Elisa Sednaoui Foundation to run Creative Facilitation trainings for youth workers in Rome, Italy and Cairo, Egypt, and continued to train trainers in Egypt who deliver Creative Facilitation training in Arabic
  • We were blown away by the summer of North American arts-empowerment camps in North that have entered their 21st year with camps run by partners Commonweal, Culture Jam, Power of Hope Canada, IndigenEYEZ and our flagship camp program Power of Hope US on Whidbey Island
  • We ran Creative Facilitation sessions with new partners Art Starts in Toronto and with First Star UK and more!

But we’re not done yet. We need your help. Here’s how you can get involved.

Peggy’s Facilitation Tip: Take the Temperature of the Room

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Imagine being met by 30 sleeply 14-year-olds at 8 am. Your job is to get them engaged and excited to learn. This month’s tip comes from high school language arts teacher Jackie Amatucci:

“I came up with the idea of have each student do a one-word check-in on how they were feeling by imagining a thermometer measuring 1 to 10 degrees. One degree means, ‘I wish I was still in bed’ and 10 degrees is, ‘I am ready and excited to learn’! Each person says their first name and where they sit on the thermometer. We’d zip right around the room and I would acknowledge each response with equal appreciation regardless of the number. By the end of this quick go around, there was always a remarkably positive shift in the room.

A few days after starting this, one student spontaneously wrote down each classmate’s number and came up with an average for the day. He then charted the daily averages to show the mood of the group over the course of a week. I’m convinced that imagining the thermometer set off a creative ripple in the group that resulted in the chart. We did this for several weeks with great results.”

Here are three other imaginative ways to do a quick check in whether in a classroom or a workshop:

  1. What animal do you feel like today?
  2. What’s your personal weather forecast?
  3. What kind of vehicle do you feel like today?

Photo credit: Ella Cooper

A One-Minute Masterclass in Effective Teaching

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It’s not often that a video of a teacher goes viral. But this video of Barry White Jr., a fifth-grade teacher in North Carolina, has had millions of views and shares. Maybe it reminds us of a great teacher we once had. Or, perhaps it’s what Mr White tells us about what really effective teaching looks like – in just one minute.

Here are five lessons we can learn from Mr White:

  1. Strong teacher-student relationships are key to kids’ success in school.

Mr White has a special handshake which he performs with each student. Through this handshake, he communicates that he values them and sees their unique qualities. Just as importantly, during those couple of seconds of engagement, he builds trust and he demonstrates that he cares. Research tells us strong teacher-student relationships have a direct impact on student engagement and achievement. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

  1. Creativity makes learning more engaging.

When I first saw this video, I was immediately reminded of my sixth-grade teacher, Mr Sanderson. Mr Sanderson used his art skills to teach history through elaborate drawings on the chalkboard. When teachers bring creativity into the classroom, learning becomes more meaningful and engaging. Like Albert Einstein said, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”

Teachers don’t need to be professional or talented artists like Mr Sanderson; there is a whole world of creative facilitation techniques and art-based activities that they can use, without any artistic skill or experience.

Google ‘creative facilitation’ and you will see hundreds of links to websites with art-based activities. Check out Games for Actors and Non-Actors by Augusto Boal, founder of Theatre of the Oppressed, to explore Boal’s revolutionary Method for using theatre to transform and liberate everyone. There are so many creative ways to awaken a student’s joy and engage with learning and these are a great place to start.  

  1. Rhythm exercises build focus for learning.

A short rhythm exercise before a session, like Mr White’s handshakes, helps learners to focus and can get kids excited about learning. But it doesn’t need to be just at the beginning of the class; a whole group rhythm exercise can help to bond and connect members of a new class. Use call and response clapping rhythms to get the attention of a noisy class, to re-gain lost attention, and as a means of de-stressing.

Rhythms with cross-lateral movements actually help to connect the left and right side of the brain and can boost academic achievement. Again, Google will reveal plenty of rhythm-based activities to help focus students for learning.

  1. Create an environment that invites full participation.

With his good morning handshake for each student, Mr White welcomes and invites them into the classroom. From the energetic ones to the ones who may need a little more encouragement, they may participate according to their own learning style. Mr White succeeds in creating an environment in which his students feel safe and supported.

Since each handshake is different according the individual’s personality, it fosters acceptance of one another. When kids feel accepted, they are more likely to participate without fear of embarrassment, ridicule, or being put down by their classmates.  

  1. Teachers play a vital role in helping kids find joy in learning.

Kids are naturally curious and wired to learn. Teachers like Mr White help kids find the joy in the learning process. He is a living example of the commitment, passion and enjoyment he has for teaching. That sense of purpose is infectious. Teachers like Mr White help kids find their own purpose; they light a spark that opens them up to learning and this has a long-term effect on their aspirations.

Just watch Peter Benson’s brilliant TED talk on how to help kids thrive. It’s like the late poet Maya Angelou said, “This is the value of the teacher, who looks at a face and says there’s something behind that and I want to reach that person….” That’s certainly what Mr White Jr. does when he high-fives those keen young learners on their way into his classroom each morning.

With so many changes in education, Mr. White reminds us that one thing won’t change – that great teachers will always be an important part of helping kids to thrive.  

Kleopatra’s story: Creativity in a Language Classroom

_MG_0397Kleopatra Kalogerakou is an English Teacher at the 1st Experimental Middle School of Athens, Greece. She participated in PYE Creative Classroom training with the hopes of learning how she could use creativity to further student achievement.

Kleopatra writes: There is a growing need for raising levels of motivation and involvement of learners in the educational process while at the same time improving overall efficiency and proficiency.

In order to suit the demands of the present day, we teachers, need the best practices to achieve the best possible results. Moreover, we need to develop individual and social autonomous learning and accommodate diverse learning styles. In the Knowledge Age, we need to successfully manage change and adaptation.

We need to adopt methodologies which lead to positive educational outcomes while actively engage learners through education, research and innovation. Global changes and new technologies present challenges for all educators since learners’ mindset and lifestyles are affected. As educators we need to respond to such changes and adapt swiftly. We need to make learning more interesting, enable learning in real settings, make use of the potential of ICT and develop 21st century skills (problem-solving, collaboration and so on).

After the Creative Classroom training, I have noticed that I have become more creative myself and more flexible in my teaching. At the beginning of the year, activities with names help me remember names more easily and quickly. When I understand my students are tired and do not pay attention, I choose an activity to have them stand up and move. When I want to teach writing in the English language, I choose a creative joint piece of writing in order to have them get started in an interesting way.

I have used several activities in my English language classroom. I have used techniques to draw attention, team building, class contracts, memorizing names, creative visualization, free writing, writing a poem, ‘What are you doing there’ activity, guided story, parallel narration.

I brought my artistic self back into play and created a more welcoming atmosphere. Students became more eager to participate and were not afraid of their classmates since they stopped being judgemental and accepted their weaknesses and strengths.

I used techniques like drawing group mandala on different themes to express visions of a shared future, “our ideal community”, ” the school we want to create” etc. “Blessing flags” “Who am I on the inside/ Who am I on the outside”, promoting creative writing such as poems, songs, story telling, role-playing etc., introducing music and dances to express feelings, ideas, likes, dislikes, preferences, etc. I adopted and adapted Creative Classroom activities according to my students’ needs.

Jennifer’s Story: A Group Rhythm of Solidarity

Thanks to PYE Global, the power of play and creativity is an active, vibrant part of my daily life. My facilitation trainings with PYE inspired me to revision leadership on many levels. Here’s an example of how PYE’s approach informed a project I led this summer.

The project came together through a collaboration with Rita Zawaideh, founder of a Seattle-based humanitarian aid organization called SCM Medical Missions. This nonprofit is focused on the specific task of bringing relief and aid to people affected by conflict and natural disaster within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and to bring people and cultures together to build bridges of understanding.

I assumed a leadership role in designing and implementing a youth service project for 50 church campers at Epiphany Parish of Seattle. I brainstormed with Rita a service project that would benefit Syrian refugees while also being scalable and age appropriate for children from preschool to fifth grade. We decided that collecting and creating hygiene kits to support Syrian refugees would achieve both objectives regarding need, service scope and age.

In the end, these 50 children teamed up to create 100 hygiene kits. But they did more than just meet basic human needs. They also embodied their service with creativity and art to add a personal touch and send a message of hope to the refugee children. The craft room came alive in a whirlwind of excitement as kids used colorful markers, construction paper and glue sticks to paste paper hearts onto paper cut out hands symbolizing love and justice.

These children also drew pictures of their families and included small toys in the hygiene kits to help make a warm, human connection with the Syrian refugee children. Finally, the campers placed an assortment of vegetable seed packets into the kits to provide food sustenance for the Syrian refugee families. In this way, they helped plant seeds of hope nourishing body and soul alike. Ultimately, these children created a group rhythm of solidarity enlivened with the movement of hands-on service.

This is the quintessential element of a group rhythm. It takes a personal narrative and gives it a beat, a pulse and a collective groove. It draws out the humanity in each of us and turns it around to empower others. Thank you, PYE Global, for teaching me what it means to be part of a tribe to enact positive social change. You have helped guide my steps toward an engaging life of creativity, movement, service and play. May we all find a rhythm that makes life come to life through the joy of movement!

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Jennifer DeBusk Alviar is an ordained, interfaith minister who earned her MDiv degree at Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, California. She currently serves as the Seattle Volunteer Coordinator for Doing Good Together. Doing Good Together™ (DGT™) is a nationwide nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to empower families to raise children who care and contribute. When families volunteer together, they teach their children generosity, kindness, compassion and civic engagement. This service-minded practice turns big-hearted kids into strong, future leaders. You can reach Jennifer here and learn more about her other service projects through her recent blog at The Riveter, a co-working space designed for women, work and wellness.


Themis’ Story: Transforming Work into Play

Themistoklis Gkion is a lead facilitator with PYE and the Founder and Learning Experience Architect at Flow Athens in Greece, but he doesn’t stop there.  Themis (for short) has a passion for education that has shaped his career path, bringing him in a full circle that starts and ends with helping others. 

Themis grew up surrounded by education and began working at the school his grandmother owned when he was a teenager. He found himself captivated when observing people learn and grow and solve problems: “I was always fascinated when I could see the spark in the kids’ eyes when they were fighting to address a challenge.” 

Themis went on to pursue various career paths. He started as an engineer, and then took on a managerial position in a small school. He then moved to finance to become a derivatives trader. “I was a free spirit. I was always seeking something to give me meaning and purpose in my life.” Themis’s taste for learning and education never subsided, and this led him to his current mission.  

Themis started Flow Athens in 2010 to change education and fill the gaps of the current system. Flow Athens designs and facilitates experiences to teach youth and adults forward-thinking skills, creativity, mechanisms for innovation, collaboration and more. Themis uses games and activities to foster learning that goes beyond what’s taught in a classroom, and that’s where PYE comes into play.

themisPYE has given Themis the confidence to be a teacher and to teach more effectively, taking Flow Athens to another level. “PYE has given me a wealth of arts-based activities, as well as a process to facilitate experiential learning programs.”  Themis began working with PYE a few years ago after attending Creative Facilitation Training in Athens, Greece. The structured and cohesive activities that PYE offers allowed Themis to improve his and his student’s work. “I had been using games and technology, and PYE has been using arts-based activities in order to pursue the same goal; cultivate 21st century skills. There was a lot of similarities and complementarities, and that’s how we started working together.”

Through Flow Athens Themis was able to get back to his roots in education and develop a new mission to help others acquire skills that aren’t offered in traditional school systems. “I want to help youth develop the skills that will allow them pursue their careers and actually conduct meaningful lives, find meaning in whatever they do and follow their passions.”

Themis also uses PYE techniques in his work with refugees. He has used the creative classroom model to empower teachers from refugee schools, who informally teach young refugees that have migrated to Greece. “We’re offering them the creative community model because it’s really suitable and adaptable for audiences of different ages and different languages. It’s proven a very useful and versatile tool for the teachers in order to be able to facilitate such diverse classes.”

Themis’s advice for anyone who wants to help others succeed, is to look deep inside yourself to determine what your real motives are; to find your real passions and driving forces, and above all  to discover the child within you. “It’s so much better when you can work with youth with a playful attitude. It’s so much easier to invite their imagination. Most of my work, I totally enjoy it. It’s like playing.”

Lakota’s Story: Finding His Inner ‘Piece’

Lakota Bisaillon recently graduated from our Power of Hope Camp on Whidbey Island last summer (2016).

As he was growing up, traditional educators made many attempts at stamping labels on him. Dyslexia, Asperger’s, PDD, but he kept washing those off. Until he began to see his challenges as gifts; gifts that empower and give focus.  

Lakota attended Power of Hope camp for 5 years. He came for the first time when he was just 13, and he feared he would be bullied. Instead he grew mighty and even mightier every summer. After he graduated from high school last year, he earned a black belt in taekwondo, completed his last PYE camp, and attended a quarter in college. THEN he made his way solo across the world to attend Kunyu Mountain Shaolin Academy in Muping, China, where he has been since the first day of this year.

Lakota Bisaillon

There, he and 34th generation monks and other students climb the mountain very early each morning to meditate in the same cave where Confucius pondered meaning for 9 years.  

After the long scramble down, they eat a quick bowl of fresh veggies, then train intensely for 8 hours. Evenings bring classes of acupuncture, calligraphy and Mandarin. 

His mother Mary Delacruz shares:“The last message that I got from him was filled with gratitude and the fact that he has found his inner ‘piece’. I love the entendre of that wording.  

To me, I think he found a piece of power along with a deep calming quiet. But, I do not think he would have found his power if it were not for the journey’s beginning through PYE and both of you, Peggy and Nadia, as well as from Charlie.  

And all of the incredible folk that you hired on and campers that you served to combine for the most empowering events on earth…know that he will pass on all the gifts you brought out in him to help empower many others over his lifetime.”

A Spark Ignited: Xanthippi Anastasiadou

A Spark Ignited: Xanthippi Anastasiadou

Xanthippi Anastasiadou with a fellow teacher training participant in Greece.Xanthippi Anastasiadou is a music teacher at a primary school in Thessaloniki, Greece and
Master’s student at the University of Macedonia.

A full year after participating in PYE’s Creative Facilitation training in Greece, she reported, “I use all of the tools I learned with my students—group songs, rhythm exercises, everything!

At the end of last year I used the ‘poetry process’ with the students where they wrote a poem, we set it to music, and they performed it for their parents. The parents were so impressed.

These tools bring out my creativity and the creativity in my students, and they love them. I have even run a “mini” Creative Facilitation session with my colleagues. There is huge potential for schools to be more creative, and Creative Facilitation is so important to this.”


If you want to give yourself a blast of hope and inspiration, click here to hear more stories like Cecilia’s.

Emphasizing Equity at Creative Community Camps

IndigenEYEZ Trainer Warren Hooley at Camp Confluence

Photo Credit: Marty Oppenheimer
IndigenEYEZ Trainer Warren Hooley at Camp Confluence

In May we held our very first “Camp Confluence” – a 5-day gathering that brought camp managers and facilitators from six organizations that lead Creative Community-based Camps for teenagers in the Pacific Northwest, USA. We met at a conference center on the shores of Whidbey Island, just north of Seattle. The Confluence was both a reunion and a reboot for the 40 participants who spent five days reflecting on the camp experience and increasing their skills to provide even deeper impact.

Exploring ways to raise awareness about equity at the camps sat at the heart of the Confluence. “Learning from people different than yourself” has been a core goal of camps since the first Power of Hope in 1996. And evaluations show that young people successfully develop the ability to embrace differences when they are back in their schools and communities. But there was a consensus that we can go further by addressing issues of equity more directly at camp. The idea emerged to work with an additional camp goal that reads: “Be Aware of Equity” or “Build an Equitable Community,” thus opening the door to deeper discussions around these issues. We are looking forward to hearing what all six organizations learn at their camps this summer.

Rich with opportunities for creative expression, the confluence produced the same life-giving effects that camp does for young people. “I have never in my life experienced such a transformational few days. I came back into my home life and career with renewed enthusiasm and completely restored optimism!” said Carrie Besko, administrator for IndigenEYEZ, an organization that serves First Nations communities in British Columbia, Canada. “Confluence provided a wonderful opportunity to create and play and sing and dance with other folks committed to social action,” reflected Lucy Kingsley from the Culture Jam camp in Oregon.

One thing this Confluence made clear, meeting face-to-face, even very occasionally, brings new depth and creativity to our shared work. “Our world is evolving so quickly, I’m deeply grateful that this community is here to listen deeply and respond with the urgency, love and hope that’s found when creativity and resolve come together,” said Dan Peters from Power of Hope Canada. We plan to keep the community strong on-line and to hold a Camp Confluence every other year!

Thank you to the organizations that participated: Power of Hope Canada, IndigenEYEZ, Power of Hope US, Young Women Empowered, Culture Jam, and Camp Lead.

Help PYE Trainer Andrew Nalani empower youth in East Africa

Support and empower youth in East Africa.


Andrew Nalani AYLE campPYE trainer Andrew Nalani is running a residential camp for 50 youth from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda called African Youth Leadership Experience. This is Andrew’s second time running the camp and he is currently in the fundraising stage, collecting donations for scholarships that will allow the youth to attend the camp. AYLE runs for 7 days, from June 15th to the 22nd in Lweza, Uganda, for East-African youth aged 15 to 20.

AYLE teaches leadership and entrepreneurial skills through emotional intelligence, creativity and project management. Andrew hopes to raise $8,000 to cover transportation costs and location costs for the camp, and has raised $1,090 since April.

Andrew and his two partners, Jakob and Francis, started AYLE in 2014 and have since run one other AYLE camp. They partnered with PYE Global and the Yale Center of Emotional Intelligence to evaluate the impacts of AYLE, and they are putting their research to use to improve this year’s camp.

To donate to the African Youth Leadership Experience, and help Andrew empower East African youth,  you can visit his fundraising website here:


For more information and to keep updated on Andrew’s camp, check out the African Youth Leadership Experience Facebook page! 


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