Reading for the Kids in Afghanistan

For our Read-a-thon, we decided to raise money for the kids in Afghanistan. These children are in refugee camps because of the ten-year war in their country. But this is not the fun camp you go to in the summer. The refugees live in tents during winter and are freezing. They have hardly any coats, blankets, food or medicine. Many kids die from the cold. In fact, last year at least 100 children died in refugee camps.

Now you may be asking,”Why help the kids in Afghanistan? Why not help the kids in Africa or Haiti, or right here in America?” Well here’s the thing; if we go one step at a time and each help a cause we really want to help, and if you combine all that, then you’ll see we have all made a difference in the world together.  One person’s $20 to support one of our readers might not feel like a lot.  But when you put it with everyone else’s contributions, it can really help.


HVHS Readers 2013_0007s

7 of our 12 readers (+1 baby brother), ready to begin!

Recap from yesterday’s read-a-thon launch meeting from Hillary:

We started with a game to get to know each other better where we had 
to self-edit into groups who either agreed, disagreed or were undecided on
various issues.  Issues were as simple as "I prefer night to day", as 
complex as "It is necessary to get a college degree to lead a happy,
productive life" and as fun as "I would rather be a forest than an ocean." 
We talked about how it felt to make those kinds of value judgements on
the spot and how our minds were sometimes changed based on what we saw 
others in the room choosing.

We discussed the four options people brought to the table: the SPCA (the 
local Dutchess County shelter is a no-kill facility); local wildlife
rehabilitation centers (the one we're going to visit in Saugerties in February); 
Global Giving; and the idea of giving aid to children in the refugee camps 
in Afghanistan.  All the ideas were interesting to the kids, and all the 
organizations are amazingly deserving.  In the end, the vote ended up 5 for 
Afghani kids, 3 for wildlife rehab centers, and 1 for Global Giving.  (It was 
a kids-only vote.)  We also touched upon the ideas of giving locally versus 
nationally/internationally, and giving 100% of your donation to a cause/paying 
organizations' overhead costs. 

We also talked about the calendar and figured out which projects we'd like
to schedule in for the spring.  Just wait and see!

Go Candidates! Our mock debate and election.

Have you been watching the presidential debates?  I have!  We’re about to decide who will be the President of the United States, and I think that’s exciting. It’s an important time because we’ll see if the leader of our country will change.  A lot of the issues that we talk about in our Roots & Shoots group are decided by the people who lead the different countries in the world.  So we decided to create our own mock presidential debate and election for our Roots & Shoots group to give kids practice for what they’ll be doing when they’re allowed to vote.

In our debate, the moderators (the hosts) called on kids to ask questions about things that were important to them.  The candidates were our parents volunteering to pretend to be the real candidates running for President right now: the Democrat President Barack Obama, the Republican Governor Mitt Romney, the Green party candidate Jill Stein and the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.  Our parents researched what those candidates would actually say about our issues.

We made a movie with the highlights from the debate (our parents got really into their roles!) and our reporter, Athena, made some really funny skits with the other kids and parents.  Watch it here:

After our debate, we watched the movie, Whale Rider, about a girl who wanted to be the next leader of her tribe, but her grandfather wouldn’t let her.  My mom thought it related to the debate because it was about leadership and what it takes to be a good leader.  When the people were picking a new tribal leader it was kind of like one big debate.  In a debate, the candidates talking about what they would do if they become president, then people see if they want to vote for that person.  In the movie, before someone was picked to become the leader, people have to make sure that you would make a good leader by seeing how they performed in certain Old Ways like special dances and fighting skills and tests of courage.  It was a really good movie.
Election day is a week from today: Tuesday, November 6th, 2012.  I think voting is a big responsibility, and I can’t wait until I’m older and I can do it.


P.S. from Hillary: Despite a wide favor in the polls for re-election of President Barack Obama, a tally of the votes cast by eligible voters (registered voters under the age of 18) after the debate showed that Green Party candidate Jill Stein won by a landslide!

The Care and Feeding (and Saving) of Bees

The other day, our Roots & Shoots group went to visit the property of an R&S friend, Cindy Joao. Cindy keeps hives of honeybees on her property and helps them prosper. In turn, the honeybees help Cindy and her neighbors pollinate their food. During our visit, we got to see the bees, the things they make, and talk to Cindy. We talked about bees, about bee-keeping and about how the bees are in trouble and need our help.

The visit gave us all a little more to think about when it comes to bees, and a glimpse into perhaps a different relationship we can have with them. This is the hand-out that Cindy gave to us from her bee-keeping teacher, Chris Harp, which tells you how to create a bee sanctuary in your backyard.

And this is the documentary a lot of us watched in preparation for our bee-u-tiful visit.

For younger kids, we recommend watching this short movie instead, to get the jist of the issue.

You can learn a lot from bees. But you may only have until the year 2035. Then the bees could be gone. How old will you be?

The Great Change

For the last two decades, there have been no women moderating the presidential debates. The moderator thinks up questions to ask the candidates who are running for President so that voters can see which one they like.  How can our country be equal if only men moderate the debates?  If only men are in charge of which questions are asked of our leaders, nobody’s speaking for a woman’s perspective .

Well, all that is changing in this year of 2012. Three sixteen-year-olds from New Jersey, Emma Alexrod, Elena Tsemberis, and Sammi Siegel, made a petition called “It’s Time for a Female Moderator.” A petition is a paper people sign to agree about something. And 100,000 people signed the girls’ petition!

So now, Mr. Lehrer has already hosted the first presidential debate on October 3rd; Candy Crowley will host the second presidential debate on October 16th; and Mr. Schieffer will host the third on October 22nd. The one Mrs. Crowley is hosting will be a lot like our Roots & Shoots mock presidential debate. People in the audience will ask questions to the candidates, the candidates will answer the questions, and the moderator will ask follow-up questions. For example, a person would ask how the candidates would take care of the environment. The candidates would say they would take care of the environment. Mrs. Crowley would ask how.

It was impressive for three 16-year-olds to make this petition and have people respond to it so well.  It really shows that young people are getting involved in important things.  And when young people do that, it shows that, even though kids can’t vote, we can still make a difference.  We now have a female moderator for this year’s presidential debate, and all because of the three girls who decided to help the women of our country.


International Day of Peace 2012

Every year, HQ encourages all the local Roots & Shoots groups to celebrate International Peace Day by flying a peace dove kite. This was the first year our group participated. We made lots of little peace dove kites and tried our hand at flying them (along with some store bought ones) at the top of Burger Hill in Rhinebeck. We also took the opportunity to talk about peace from a personal perspective and a global perspective. Check it out.


Take Action for Endangered Animals

Knowing how much the kids care about saving endangered species, I thought I’d post this call for action from the Wildlife Conservation Society:
the current House funding bill included NOTHING for some U.S.
programs that protect wildlife all over the world. It’s an unprecedented and
shocking move that would spell disaster for tigers, elephants, apes, and hundreds of
other species teetering on the brink.

We have one opportunity to reverse this dire situation. Action in the Senate Tuesday
will decide whether or not to put these vital protection programs back in the

Will you email your senators right now and speak up for wildlife?

Here’s the link:

Please don’t wait. By Tuesday afternoon it could be too late.



My good friend and fellow Roots and Shoots member, Benny, made this movie about how the world is trying to make boys get drawn into fighting.  It is kind of like how the world is trying to lure girls into just taking care of other people and becoming the mothers of those boys who are going to war.  (Note from my mom: We wanted to post Benny’s movie here because it makes us think about things a little differently, and we thought you’d enjoy it, too!  Check it out…)

Now that I have seen this video, I think when my baby brother is born (in February) we should let him play with lots of different kinds of things so that he doesn’t have to play with just fighting stuff every single day.  That might let him know that it is better to be a fan of lots of different things instead of just one kind of thing.  Like me!  Because I like a lot of different things, including Harry Potter and a series of books called the Hunger Games.  I hope you learn from this video, just like me!


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