To See, Slow Down: Celebrating #Lifeat3MPH

To see and know a place is a contemplative act. It means emptying our minds and letting what is there, in all its multiplicity and endless variety, come in.
— Gretel Ehrlich, from "Landscape," in "Legacy of Light"
Copyright Darcy V. Kitching 2015

I kicked off this summer on the move. In June, I started leading two walks per week as a Walking Movement Leader for Boulder Walks and Walk2Connect, joined other organized walks in my city, and walked more than 40 miles with my son for the Hike it Baby 30 Challenge. Having just returned from spending the first two weeks of July in Canada, indulging in the slow pace of summer vacation, I'm easing back into the rhythm of walking near and far, exploring the world on foot.

The more I walk where I live, the more I value "Life@3MPH," and the more clearly I see everything around me. Walking invites me to engage with the environment and photograph evidence of community values. Artifacts of our collective aspirations, interests, fears, and traditions lie along every pathway and define every node. 

Case in point: on Thursday, while strolling to the rendezvous site for the fitness walk I lead in my neighborhood, I happened to pass a parked photo radar van just as a motorcyclist sped past it and triggered the flash camera. The fact that it wasn't ME getting that automatic ticket made me do a little happy dance ... because I've gotten snapped by that same blasted van in the past. The presence of photo radar machines exposes the city's interests in making streets safer by compelling motorists to slow down (there is an elementary school along this path), but it also evinces the many risks involved in driving. When I'm walking, I get to enjoy the fact that streets are multi-modal pathways, and I can participate in my community in ways I'd never get to if I were whizzing past in my auto-bubble.

Copyright Darcy V. Kitching 2015

Further along on my Thursday stroll, I greeted a lady named Jean who lovingly maintains the planted buffer strip between the sidewalk and the busy intersection where she lives, and she does it out of sheer goodwill. She plants and prunes and beautifies the area for the benefit of all walkers, because she enjoys gardening. The work she does helps make taking this route on foot a joyous experience, and I was glad for the chance to thank her.

"I wish that every body drove the cars less" - a tag hung from a wish tree in a north Boulder yard.

"I wish that every body drove the cars less" - a tag hung from a wish tree in a north Boulder yard.

On a recent ramble with Walk2Connect in a part of my city I don't know well, I got to experience another neighborhood's playful nature and delight in the kinds of details developed by residents who want to share their love of place. Along the way, we found a wish tree, on which one person pined for a less auto-oriented community, and a house with an artistic "wishing fence" that invited people to make their own secret wishes and stash them in jars and bottles.

We found tiny local gardens nestled along a hidden path between streets on a sloping hill, complete with benches to give people a place to enjoy what the community had made.

And we found more benches throughout the neighborhood, which indicated to me community values of kindness, love of nature and a slower pace of life. The benches - one installed by the neighborhood along a scenic street and one by the city along Boulder Creek - were well-placed under shade trees, facing views, inviting rest and contemplation.

Sometimes, we were reminded to slow down in a literal way ...

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and sometimes, natural elements gave us a more subtle guide to the benefits of going slowly by. We got to contemplate the patterns in Boulder Creek's whitewater rapids and took some moments to pause atop a mountain overlooking the city.

Whether discovering swings in someone's front yard, answering an invitation to add ideas to an evolving artwork, or strolling down colorful alleyways ...

... walking brings me closer to places and people and shows me how places inspire people to engage each other. It is my favorite mode of all for getting to know places near and far.

Celebrate Life@3MPH with me by supporting Walk2Connect on this, the penultimate day of its crowdfunding campaign, The Value of Walking Together. You can show off your love of taking life at a walking pace by chipping in $100 for a Colorado-made leather wristband, or pay $50 for a Walk2Connect membership and reap the benefits of connecting with other walkers around the Denver metro area and beyond.

The bracelet being offered for a $100 donation to The Value of Walking Together, made by Colorado's own Love Free Movement.

The bracelet being offered for a $100 donation to The Value of Walking Together, made by Colorado's own Love Free Movement.

Perhaps the band Poi Dog Pondering said it best when they sang about how "you get to know things better when they go by slow." Even 20 years after I first heard it, this song inspires me to get out and see by slowing down. Listen and enjoy!

Well the Ancient Egyptians, and the other Africans
The Mayans, the Incas, and all the Polynesians.
All around the world, a long long time ago,
People would walk, where ever they had to go.
They didn’t have car keys, and they didn’t have roads —
They didn’t have those ugly convenience stores, or Texacos
In fact, all around the world, a long long time ago,
people would walk, where ever they had to go.
Well now it’s the 1990’s, and the gasoline does flow,
but I still try and walk most of the places I have to go
But sometimes my friends will stop and say,
”Hey Frank! There’s a bus or a cab over there...
Why don’t we go ahead and get in it?”
But I say no, no, no, and didn’t you know,
you get to know things better when they go by slow.
— Poi Dog Pondering, "The Ancient Egyptians"

A Journey in Pictures: 9 Miles Around Boulder with Walk2Connect

Many people nowadays live in a series of interiors...disconnected from each other. On foot everything stays connected, for while walking one occupies the spaces between those interiors in the same way one occupies those interiors. One lives in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it.
— Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking
Copyright Darcy V. Kitching 2015

It is easy to fall into a habit of walking tight loops in Boulder, Colorado. Occupants of our fair city, frequently lauded as one of the best places to live in the United States, enjoy easy access to parks and green spaces, a pedestrian-friendly environment featuring 58 miles of paved multi-use paths and 145 miles of natural hiking trails, and plenty of pleasant public spaces in which to meet or retreat throughout the downtown and Boulder Creek corridors. There is so much to do and see and explore in each part of the city that I suspect many of my fellow Boulderites, are, like me, used to simply walking their own neighborhoods or driving from amenity to amenity, experiencing the city as a series of destinations, like pearls on a necklace.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to explore the full range of Boulder's urban and natural environments on foot, stitching together step by step different neighborhoods, nature trails, parks, shopping centers; places with smooth sidewalks and uneven ones; underpasses and the always-under-construction campus on the hill. I walked 9 miles in about 4 hours with 11 other "ramblers" - people from all over the world and a great variety of disciplines - in the largest loop I'd ever attempted around the city.

As we connected with each other, thanks to the able facilitation of our Walk2Connect leader, Jonathon, we connected different parts of the city in our minds, writing new mental maps and learning new things about how Boulder works, and doesn't work, for its residents.

Our group began by walking west along rain-swollen Boulder Creek and passing through a tunnel inscribed with an uplifting message.

Jonathon then led us north up the Red Rocks trail toward Mt. Sanitas, on the western edge of the city.

At the top, we stopped to learn about the historic significance of the magnificent red rock outcroppings to the Arapahoe and Ute peoples, who lived here long before 19th-century gold seekers set up camp and established a town at the mouth of Boulder Canyon. As one member of our group said, the rocks were considered not just the most prominent feature of a sacred landscape, but gods themselves. To the people who lived and worshiped here, the land embodied the spirits that sustained them. Now, our city stretches unceremoniously out before them at the base of this hill.

Our group members connected easily, sharing ideas and stories and life experiences as we hiked down toward the Mapleton Hill neighborhood, one of the first settled areas of Boulder.

The neighborhood had beautiful weather for its annual rummage sale. Neighbors sat out on their sidewalks and porches with items for sale as people crowded the streets, creating the atmosphere of a vast, winding marketplace. We walked right on through, noting the pleasant atmosphere of pedestrian dominance and slowed-down cars, without browsing much, talking with each other as we strolled toward North Boulder Park.

Occasionally, we crossed our signals ...

Copyright Darcy V. Kitching 2015

... but we soon made it to the park, where we stopped briefly to note North Boulder's excellent pedestrian access to both recreation amenities and essential shopping. The Ideal Market grocery store and shops on Broadway are just a few blocks from this park, as is Mt. Sanitas, with its trails.

From North Boulder, we looped around to eastern Mapleton Hill, where Jonathon shared thoughts on the pedestrian friendliness of the historic district, facilitated by the classic pattern of inserting planted buffers between the streets and the sidewalks. I also love how old neighborhood streets often feature overhanging trees, creating little canopies to walk through.

Jonathon is an advocate of "wildscaping" front yards, so he stopped in front of one home's habitat to describe the benefits to bees and other wildlife of planting a natural landscape rather than grass.

Copyright Darcy V. Kitching 2015

From lush Mapleton Hill, we turned toward Boulder's hardscaped eastern edge, splitting up and walking down Pine Street (a dog-friendly zone) and the Pearl Street Pedestrian Mall (on which dogs are not allowed). We then met up on East Pearl Street and took a lunch break at Snarf's Sandwich Shop.

Storm clouds rolled in over the Flatirons. As we traversed the 29th Street Mall, a sprinkling began that lasted the rest of our journey. We briefly took refuge in a frozen yogurt shop before turning onto the Boulder Creek Path and crossing the University of Colorado campus.

With just a mile or two to go, we glowed with gratitude and the joy of exercise on a cool summer's day.

Copyright Darcy V. Kitching 2015

Little by little, step by step, we made our way back to our starting point and on with our afternoons, renewed, refreshed, happy, knowing more about where we live and having made some new friends.

Copyright Darcy V. Kitching 2015

To learn about other walking opportunities like this one, as well as shorter trips and special walking programs, check out the events calendar on the Walk2Connect website. While you're there, please click on "The Campaign" and make a contribution to Walk2Connect's crowdfunding campaign to raise money for Walking Movement Leaders to continue providing health-giving, friendship-building, life-enhancing experiences like the one pictured in this post. Thanks, and hope to see you out walking soon!

On Raising a "Wild Child": Lessons from My Mother

We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children’s memories, the adventures we’ve had together in nature will always exist.
— Richard Louv, from "Last Child in the Woods"

Growing up in suburban Denver with a man-made reservoir just beyond the backyard fence and enough adjacent open space to build cattail and willow dens, climb trees and get lost in daydreams, I had some sense that I was lucky. I knew our little patch of nature between developments was special, even if it did stink sometimes when dead fish washed up on the lake's sandy shore in slimy nets of green algae. My brother and I made the most of that semi-tamed space, playing outside in the trees and reeds until mom called out the back door to bring us home again. 

The land around our suburban greenbelt house became a kind of binding for the sensory scrapbook of my childhood experience. And the pages filled up year after year with memories of the places my outdoors-loving mother helped us discover.

Mom came to Colorado as a young English teacher in love with the mountains. She couldn't stand being cooped up inside for any longer than it took to grade a stack of papers or read a good book. When my brother and I were little, she carried us up mountain trails on her back. My early memories glimmer with the soft greens and golds of pine forests and smell of campfire smoke.

We spent weekends catching tadpoles and hiding in old tree stumps around our property near the town of Fairplay, or chasing each other up switchback trails past purple columbines and ropes of wild strawberries. We skied in the winter and spent many summers in rural Oklahoma, where mom's parents lived, swimming, fishing, catching fireflies, and tramping through deciduous woods filled with fragrant hickory and flowering trees. We took epic road trips through every national park. We hiked the Grand Canyon and stood sore and stunned by the views before us. My mother cultivated in me an adventurous Colorado spirit and modeled awe: the breathless appreciation of all things wild and beautiful.

My mom, Sara Varney, in rural Oklahoma with the tipi her father built, circa 1980. This was one of her favorite places in the world.

My mom, Sara Varney, in rural Oklahoma with the tipi her father built, circa 1980. This was one of her favorite places in the world.

When I heard Scott Sampson, the author of How to Raise a Wild Child, interviewed on Colorado Public Radio recently, I reflected on the gifts my mother gave me by simply expecting me to go outside. She had a horror of "vidiot" kids glued to the TV; she detested the sight of us "wallowing" around on a nice day. We didn't have video games at home. I spent much more than the 7 minutes a day outdoors Sampson says kids are getting on average now.

Mom on our Grand Canyon rim-to-rim hiking trip, 1987.

Mom on our Grand Canyon rim-to-rim hiking trip, 1987.

As suburbanites, my brother and I weren't as "wild" as I hope my own son grows up to be. My family and I live near mountain open space parks, and I can imagine my son walking the trails on his own as he grows up, climbing the rocky outcroppings, sitting and thinking near meadows filled with wildflowers. He might even see a black bear while hiking around home, and will surely stop to admire bucks and does nosing around in the underbrush.

He may have more raw material for his imagination close at hand than I did in my childhood reservoir-and-reed environment, but any kind of wilderness is great for a growing mind. On our local hikes over his first two and a half years of life, we have listened to the crunch of our footsteps in the forest, gawked at graceful raptors in the sky, tossed rocks into rivulets, and met hundreds of friendly dogs walking with their owners. 

My son at 18 months collecting rocks on a trail near home.

My son at 18 months collecting rocks on a trail near home.

Of course, families don't need to take big trips or live near mountains to cultivate a love of nature in their children. As Wild Child author Sampson said in the CPR interview, "One of the most powerful ways to [encourage outdoor time is to create] family nature clubs. It can be as few as two families and trust me, if you start this, you may have 50 families come join you (because that's happened before). It's just a way to get families out into nature on a regular basis together. The parents love it because they get to just hang out together and talk grownup stuff. The kids love it because they're playing with all these other kids." 

Along with building family nature clubs through the Children and Nature Network, parents can join organized walks with Hike It Baby in more than 90 cities in the United States. Here in Colorado, we have a very active Hike It Baby network, with walks and hikes happening throughout the state daily. Little O and I joined friends on a HIB hike in Eldorado Canyon last week and loved it. Check out listings of local hikes here: hikeitbaby.com/find-a-hike/.

I'm trying to raise a "wild child" by accompanying my son outside every day, not just on hikes, but also to do things pictured in the collage below: to play around the lake in our local park, "pet" slugs in the rain, wander through the hay-bale maze at Sunflower Farm, throw rocks into Boulder Creek, and just lounge around enjoying the view wherever we happen to be.

Some of the many activities we do outdoors.

Some of the many activities we do outdoors.

My mother was a remarkable person whose passion for the outdoors and connection to beautiful places from deserts to rainforests and everywhere in between forged in me a deep commitment to sharing that love and learning how it shapes who we are in the world. It all started when she took me along on her own adventures, it grew as she encouraged me to discover places for myself, and now it continues as I cultivate the same kind of fondness for all things outdoors with my own child.

My mom, Sara Varney, passed away five years ago this September. I miss her this Mother's Day as ever, but it's important to me to celebrate her legacy and pass it down to others.

In June 2010, mom wrote a letter to her friends at Denver Health, where she had volunteered in the emergency department for 20 years, expressing her genuine hope that they would all do her the great favor of getting out into nature when she couldn't any longer. She wrote,"enjoy the gorgeous days of summer, lie on a blanket under a tree, look up at the leaves, sun, sky, clouds, and thank God every day for life."

Hiking with my son in Rocky Mountain National Park, 2013.

Hiking with my son in Rocky Mountain National Park, 2013.

Let's all get outside and do that however we can. I am so grateful to my mother for showing me what a wonderful world we have all around us.

Where are your favorite places to get outside and enjoy the fresh air? What do you need to support your children's love of nature and the outdoors? Leave a comment and join me in a conversation about raising happily "wild" children. Happy hiking!

Where Families Belong

Reif Larsen published an essay in Friday's New York Times that struck a deep chord with me, comparing as it did the struggle of family travel in the United States with getting around in Europe, specifically Scotland, where places accommodate the needs of parents with young children better. In his essay, Larsen laments the absence of nursing rooms and the dearth of highchairs in the Newark airport and reports a distinct feeling of being unwelcome wherever he and his wife took their young child when they lived in the United States.

While I haven't sensed the same animosity aimed at my offspring ("It was as if people secretly wished we could stow our child in cargo so that we would not disrupt their game of Candy Crush," Larsen writes), I agree that we need better facilities everywhere for caregivers of young children in this country. That very idea has been on my mind ever since I first left the house with my 6-week-old son. We've now traveled to five countries as a family, and everywhere we go, I pay special attention to the ways parents and children are either implicitly included in or excluded from public space. 

Take Vancouver, British Columbia, for example. We travel to Canada about twice a year to visit my husband's parents, and each time we go, I find more great examples of how the city accommodates families. Let's start at the airport.

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The Vancouver airport features family "washrooms" between each and every bank of male and female toilets. No need to hunt around on unknown concourses - they're everywhere you'd find a regular restroom and are available to either parent.

© Darcy Kitching 2014

The family washrooms include one of the most important, and, in my experience, least considered, features known to diapering parents: a changing space integrated with a sink AND a trash can. This beautiful built-in makes it virtually effortless to clean up a baby's bottom and keep yourself clean, too.

The family washrooms also offer plenty of hooks and benches, allowing parents to put the diaper bag down and sit comfortably without having to pile everything on the floor (although these floors are considerably less grimy than in most restrooms, I'm still grateful that I don't have to sit or change my baby on them). These washrooms are also big enough to wheel a stroller into.

Right outside of this particular washroom is a wonderful children's play area with slides, climbing structures, a maze, and soft flooring. Families can relax, children can play, and either parent can take the tiny one for a change and a feed whenever needed. We love this place.

Another place we spend time in Vancouver is Granville Island Public Market. Last year, I discovered the wonderful nursing/changing room there.

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This room meets the needs of parents and also functions as an emergency care room. It's a great private space for anyone who needs to step out of the action of the market for a while to care for themselves or others. Though it doesn't have a toilet, this space does have a sink with a wide countertop and a pull-down changing table.

Vancouver's TELUS World of Science museum also accommodates families - particularly nursing mothers - beautifully. I found a comfortable nursing room there when we visited last year.

© Darcy Kitching 2015

This room features two-way glass, letting moms sit contentedly and feed their infants while other family members play in one of the museum's fabulous children's discovery areas. Here, mothers can find cozy chairs and a changing table, though no sink or toilet.

Our experiences in Canada fit with Reif Larsen's observations of the deeper commitment to accommodating families in the British Commonwealth countries than in the United States:

In Britain, there are way more resources devoted to children than in the United States. This is a generalization, of course, but in my experience it’s very apparent that for the Scots, family always comes first. This is reflected not just in a general attitude of the Scots toward work as a necessary but nonessential part of life (“Work stays at work,” they will tell you), but also on a legislative level, as can be seen in the incredibly generous (and mandatory) maternity and paternity leave laws (52 weeks in Britain).

There is also an infrastructural commitment to children in public places. At the Edinburgh airport, you can find three large soft-play areas in the terminals, ample highchairs and dedicated lines for families. You can preorder baby milk, which will be delivered to you at your departure gate. There’s even an entire cushy room devoted solely to nursing mothers. Set up a boombox with a little MC Hammer and bring sufficient string cheese and you and your baby could have a pretty nice layover in there.
— Reif Larsen, New York Times, May 1, 2015

As I've shared ideas about my mission to improve places for families here at home, I have received some wonderful stories and pictures from friends with young children as they have discovered great spaces for caregiving - spaces I call "Baby Havens."

My friend Liz and her family just returned from Scotland, where they found a room Larsen and his own family have surely delighted in, too. This lovely space in Edinburgh Castle is situated between the men's and women's restrooms, so it is accessible to both parents.

© Liz Rafert 2015

Liz loved the natural light in this space, the hooks for her bags and jacket, the comfortable nursing chair, and the integrated sink/changing table (my favorite feature!).

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The room is lit by skylights, pictured on the left, and it also offers a conveniently located vending machine stocked with diapers.

While traveling through the Geneva airport recently, my friend Muratha and his family discovered an equally inspiring baby-care space.

© Muratha Kinuthia 2015

There's that fantastic changing table/sink combination, and a great play space to occupy little ones while families wait for their flights. This space also features a feeding area with high chairs and a rest area with cribs. For weary young-family travelers, spaces like this can reduce stress and make big transitions bearable.

Family restrooms and baby-care spaces in the United States, when available, tend to offer fewer amenities than shown in these examples from other countries. They may have pull-down diaper-changing tables, but these are typically located away from the sink and trash cans; they may have child-sized toilets, but rarely offer a comfortable chair for nursing or feeding. I have found a few places that truly meet the needs of parents with young children in the Denver/Boulder area, but the families I have talked with agree that we need more, and better, caregiving spaces.

Where have you found families belong? I'm collecting more examples of places that work and recruiting help with documenting them. Please get in touch with me to share your stories: darcy @ placesmakepeople.com. Happy travels!

 

A Lost Object

Today's post is less about place than the place of objects in cultural memory. It seems, my friends, that the object depicted on my T-shirt has been lost to the winds of time. What is it?

© Darcy Kitching 2014

When I first donned this shirt at home, little O pointed at it and said, "Helicopter!" It took me a moment to understand what he could possibly mean, but then, when I looked in the mirror, I realized that the not-so-ancient typewriter pictured on my chest resembled a kind of massive, military-type aircraft of some sort. If I squinted.

But again today, when we walked into a friend's house, her son (like O, a year and a half old) pointed at my shirt and said, "Airplane!"

Now, to me, it's truly noteworthy that our tiny boys, with their limited exposure to aircraft, were able to take such an abstract leap from those experiences and fit this picture of a Royal portable typewriter into the aircraft category in their minds. They have never seen a real typewriter. They have never heard that distinctive clacking of keys and slapping of type bars on paper that filled my childhood and early adolescence. And it's likely they never will. To the boys, this machine might as well be a helicopter. I'm sure a fair number of them were thrown out of windows in their time.

Though computers entered my life fairly early - my dad is a true technophile who owned one of the first Tandy or IBM type machines, and there were computers for learning basic skills on in my elementary school - I learned to type on an electric typewriter in junior high, and my mother used one until around the year 2000, when she could no longer buy new ribbons for it.

I remember riding along with her on trips to the typewriter repair store in Lakewood, Colorado, as a kid. It was just off Colfax near the Westminster Mall. It was a store packed with machines and parts of machines and small boxes of typewriter ribbons of many colors. It might even have been the same store where mom took the vacuum cleaner to be repaired. Her motto, which I have displayed in a cross-stitch sampler above my desk, was, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." And she did.

The artist who made my T-shirt chose his design with irony in mind. The word "LAPTOP" is written on the piece of paper sticking out of the top of the typewriter. As someone who loved typewriters for their retro utility but was herself an early computer adopter (my first laptop computer was one I had to insert a floppy disk into to boot it up, since it had no hard drive), I found it funny. I'm not shy about revealing how many years I've been around (clearly, since I'm hosting the Fabulous 42 Formal), so I also wear this shirt as a badge of middle-aged pride.

That's not a helicopter, little one - it's a machine mommy used to write on years ago!

Standing Up for the Success of Teachers and Students (#TPTuesday)

Kenya on my mind: this proud lioness captured at the Denver Zoo this morning reminded me of photo safaris I've done in Kenya and also of the great opportunities volunteers who travel to Kenya with Technology Partnership can have. We work in schools, but we get out to see the wildlife, too!

Kenya on my mind: this proud lioness captured at the Denver Zoo this morning reminded me of photo safaris I've done in Kenya and also of the great opportunities volunteers who travel to Kenya with Technology Partnership can have. We work in schools, but we get out to see the wildlife, too!

The life of a true committed teacher the world over involves going far beyond the normal call of duty.
— John Kamwara, teacher and Technology Partnership Kenya Director

Teachers everywhere invest their own money and much of their free time in efforts to ensure their students succeed. Whether buying supplies and snacks for students who can't afford them or devoting their evenings, weekends and hard-earned vacation time to designing lesson plans, writing curriculum and grading assignments, many teachers sacrifice a great deal to help their students realize their own potential.

In Meru, Kenya, where Technology Partnership works, a group of teachers is doing all this and supporting their community of fellow educators by training other teachers on how to use computers in the classroom. Our local Leadership Team, made up of teachers who have taken the computer trainings led by our U.S. Director, Barbara Bates, is empowered, skilled and highly dedicated to the cause of bringing teaching and learning standards in Meru and in Kenya into the 21st century. They volunteer their time to conduct trainings, based on the Intel TEACH curriculum Barb has been using for the past several years, and provide guidance, mentorship and support to teachers in the community as they learn how to integrate new technology into their classroom routines.

Our Leadership Team members have decided it is worth it to add technology training to the long list of things they do to help their students and their community because they have seen how powerfully computers can change the whole culture of education. As our Kenya Director, John Kamwara, tells it, computers, printers and other technology devices donated by Technology Partnership (TP) to schools in Meru, and the ongoing trainings we have provided on how best to use the devices, have helped a great deal in:

  1. Exposing both teachers and students to the use of technology in learning and teaching.
  2. Improving national examinations results. "In fact, TP schools that actively use technology in learning and teaching are the ones leading in top scores in national examinations for both high schools and primary schools," John says.
  3. Communicating and sharing skills and ideas. "For example," says John, "on the occasion of the prize-giving day for Meru county schools on 20th of July this year, the education department of the school district needed videos and photos of the occasion. Children from one of the TP schools situated in a slum area (CCM Township Primary School) did that work using tablets. It was fantastic."
  4. Increasing the efficiency of teachers.
  5. Creating opportunities to access educational opportunities and information, and do research on the internet.

"So far," says John, "of all the other non-profit organizations that have been involved in getting schools to use computers, it is only TP that has recorded great success because of the difference in its project implementation approaches. As Barb put it in her last report, indeed we are now in an acceleration phase because of the appetite for technology created by TP through effective project implementation methods."

Help us continue to stand up for teachers and students in Meru, Kenya, and provide them with opportunities to expand their resources. Make a donation to Technology Partnership via the button on our website today, or join us at the upcoming Fabulous 42 Formal at the Posner Center for International Development in Denver to learn more about our work and enjoy a fantastic evening! You might even consider traveling to Meru with us in the future to see the success (and the safari parks!) first-hand. Listen to the stories of these teachers who visited our schools in 2013 and be inspired!

Places that Lift the Spirit

This morning, I took a strenuous hike up Boulder's Mount Sanitas with O on my back and my husband at my side. We walked past many hikers with dogs O invariably found "cute" and scrambled up rocky outcroppings at the top of the mountain. All the way up, fellow hikers commented on the added workout I was getting by carrying a 25-pound boy on my back. It felt great. I needed it. The company, the exercise and the views lifted my spirit and reminded me of how grateful I am to live here, to live now.

A view of Boulder from near the top of Mt. Sanitas

A view of Boulder from near the top of Mt. Sanitas

Today is the fourth anniversary of my mother's death.

My heart was heavy as we hiked, but I stepped lightly, knowing that being somewhere beautiful, finding peace in the sanctuary of nature, is exactly what my mother would have wanted. She was a hiker herself, as well as a world traveler, a world-class teacher, a grandmother, a sister, an independent woman. As a retiree, she volunteered most of her time giving tours of the Colorado state capitol building, working in the ER of Denver Health (the city's notorious "knife and gun club" and level-1 trauma center), judging at speech and debate tournaments, working at the Jefferson County Action Center to help families in need, driving for Meals on Wheels and taking on any number of additional projects as she was asked.

In that spirit of productivity and support, I spent the rest of the day getting things done. First, I went to the Posner Center to figure out how long a red carpet we'll need for the Fabulous 42 Formal (answer: 50 feet).

Measuring the red-carpet space ...

Measuring the red-carpet space ...

The Posner Center lifts my spirit every time I walk into it. The place is home to more than 60 organizations doing great work around the world, and you can just sense the creativity and collaborative productivity going on there, even on a Sunday. Not surprisingly, I wasn't the only one in the building. It's also an uplifting space because it's just plain gorgeous. The designers created beautiful details and maximized joy in the space by building in plenty of natural light, using quality finishes and creating innovative spaces for meeting, collaboration and everyday work. It's a model building for what is becoming an important approach to work in many industries.

After checking on the details at Posner, I headed over to Diebolt Brewing Company, a founder of which is my mother's first cousin. They were busy serving up delicious beers and snacks for their first anniversary celebrations, so I hung out at the bar and sipped on an amazing bourbon-infused porter while chatting with brewer Jack Diebolt (who I guess would be my mom's first cousin once removed).

Jack Diebolt

Jack Diebolt

The Diebolts have created a charming little brewery at 39th and Mariposa that truly lifts the spirit, not only through liquid spirits, but also through great hospitality. They're a fun bunch to chat with, and Martha Diebolt (my mom's cousin) is always a delight, with her optimism, charm and genuine kindness. I love these guys. And I'm excited about sharing the love by offering two of their delicious brews at the Fab 42 Formal. I dropped off some flyers about the event and had fun talking with the Diebolts about how all of the details are coming together beautifully.

I made my way home after hanging with the Diebolts and spent the evening reading to O and enjoying a delicious dinner with my family. Our home lifts my spirit every time I walk into it. This place lets me relax and be myself. It expresses my family's histories and our individual discoveries. It brings us together and gives us room to be apart.

As I contemplated the spirit of my too-early-departed mother, I felt graced by many spirit-lifting experiences today. A good day to be alive.

Mobile Technology for Meru (#TPTuesday)

Up late working on my essential mobile technology: my laptop

Up late working on my essential mobile technology: my laptop

Technology Partnership has provided more than 500 computers to primary and secondary schools in Meru, Kenya, and taught teachers how to teach with them. Increasingly, however, our partners in Meru are seeking mobile technologies to help them work more effectively and get their students caught up with the developed world. We have donated some laptop computers and tablets to our partner schools, but we're also investigating ways to help students and teachers get access to smartphones and small tablets to ensure they can complete assignments, work collaboratively and expand their learning horizons.

Our Kenya Director, John Kamwara, communicated the need for more mobile technologies to me in a recent e-mail:

Both students and teachers would love to access more on internet. Now, more teachers need portable technology devices to be able to do their work even when out of school. This includes laptops, tablets, iPads, jump drives, projectors, digital cameras, etc. We don’t mind whether these are donated new or have been used as long as they are working perfectly well. In fact, there is a great desire for portable technology equipment among teachers and students here, as well as more opportunities to learn how to use it effectively.

Computers in school-based labs are great resources, but mobile technology allows for flexibility, connectivity and collaboration in a way traditional desktop computing doesn't. Our mobility and mobile connectivity are assets we take utterly for granted in these days of pocket computers and ubiquitous wi-fi. It's even something we have to carefully manage for our children, lest they get too hooked on the iPad or iPhone. We know how important these tools can be for learning, entrepreneurship and the development of important skills. For students and teachers in Meru, Kenya, mobile technology still means a cell phone you can text on but little else.

Help Technology Partnership give our Kenyan partners access to tools for 21st century success. Make a donation today, or attend the Fabulous 42 Formal on Saturday, October 4th, to celebrate and learn more about our great work!

* This is the fourth of 6 #TPTuesday posts focusing on Technology Partnership, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, on whose board I serve.