By teaching our students to think, care, and act, we empower them to build a peaceful future.

Welcome to Think, Care, Act, where teachers and students can find rationales and resources to infuse required curricula with peace, character, global, and multicultural concepts throughout the year.

To act in a world whose problems seem overwhelming requires being able to use the powers of critical and creative thinking and compassionate and inclusive care. Employing these tools, adults and youth alike can work effectively and conscientiously to solve problems big and small, global and local.

Monday, September 26, 2011

“Turn the bus around!” Remembering the inspiration of Wangari Maathai

Listening to BBC news early this morning, I heard the announcer mention Wangari Maathai, 2004 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.  Expecting to hear of a new initiative of hers to help the environment, instead I was saddened to learn of her death at age 71.  It is hard to believe that the energetic Wangari Maathai is dead.  Whenever I think of her—even now—I see and hear a woman full of life, laughter, and an endless energy to work for peace and justice for her beloved Kenya and all of humanity.

I met Wangari Maathai in 2002 when she spoke at a conference at Haverford College in Pennsylvania.  There, she gave an impassioned talk about humanity’s plight.  “We’ve boarded the wrong bus.  We’re going in the wrong direction.  We’ve got to turn the bus around.”  Exhorting us in her melodious Kenyan accent, Maathai made us believe we could reverse backward foreign policy and misguided environmental policy.  In doing so, we could put humanity back on course to create a more just and peaceful world. 

With my middle school students, Wangari Maathai’s message resonates as well.  We study the lives and impact of those who have helped change the world, examining their steps in doing so.   I plaster my walls with inspirational photographs, posters, and quotations and frequently refer to Nobel Peace Prize winners such as Wangari Maathai. 

In her memoir Unbowed and in numerous radio and TV interviews, Maathai described her childhood, education, and family, as well as the political, moral, and ecological awareness that inspired her to found Kenya’s Greenbelt Movement.  Recounting jailings, beatings, and ridicule at the hands of corrupt and dismissive government officials, Maathai wrote, “What I have learned over the years is that we must be patient, persistent, and committed.”  Comparing peace to a traditional African stool, whose three legs represent human and ecological rights, sustainable management of resources, and cultivation of cultures of peace, she reminded us that the trees we plant today benefit others in the future.

In my classes, we use her advice in our daily academic, athletic, and social endeavors as well as when we take action to help others—in our classroom and beyond.  My history class “final exam” is a social action project.  Students working alone and in small groups identify something wrong in the world and work to make it better. I further invite each student to consider how the problem on which they will work fits into the global picture. Studying Peace Prize laureates allows students to meet leaders who use critical and compassionate thinking about root causes of local and global problems in active service to the global community.   

My students are awestruck at Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement of Kenya.  Maathai started this movement with and for women, to help them organize their communities and reclaim their lands from land grabbers and deforestation.  When students hear how this small movement grew until it has planted over 45 million trees, pairs of students look at each other and exclaim, “We’re going to plant trees! It’s good for the environment, and that’s good for peace!”

Introduce your students to Wangari Maathai.  Her message and inspiration are timeless. 

For middle and upper school students, this 3-minute YouTube excerpt is suitable.  Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai: .  The excerpt is from a PBS Independent Lens production.  Background information on Maathai’s life and work (as well as additional interviews) can be found at .  The Nobel Peace Prize website has biographical information and videos of Maathai’s Nobel acceptance speech and an interview as well: .

For elementary school students, consider reading one of several illustrated children’s books, such as Wangari’s Trees of Peace.  Or, share “I will be a hummingbird,” a 2-minute animated video excerpt from Dirt, the Movie.  Live and with colorful animated images, Maathai cheerfully compares herself to an energetic and ever-hopeful hummingbird, bringing drops of water to put out a forest fire: .

“I will be a hummingbird,” Wangari explains.  “I will do the best I can.”  Let’s keep the message and work of Wangari Maathai alive by sharing her legacy with our students.  We can turn the bus around.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Peace education book combines theory and practice:

Think, Care, Act:
Teaching for a Peaceful Future
New release from Information Age Publishing!

Greetings, Fellow Educators,

Thinking critically and creatively…  Caring for classroom and global neighbors…  Acting effectively and honorably for the common good…   My new book presents rationales and resources for teaching students to think, care, and act.  With its reader-friendly combination of theory and practice, readers will find it both practical and inspiring.  It is suitable for college and university peace education classes as well as all-school reading for teachers and parents in elementary, middle, and secondary schools.  Community groups will find it useful as well.  Kindly spread the word to everyone you think will find this book of interest.  Content and ordering information are below.

Thank you,
Sue Cannon

By Susan Gelber Cannon  (Edited and Foreword by Ian Harris)

THINK, CARE, ACT: Teaching for a Peaceful Future

“Peace can be taught in practically every discipline if teachers truly concerned about the fate of this planet and its inhabitants have resources like this book to guide them…. [Cannon’s] sophisticated understanding of how to address these complex issues will help other teachers choosing to grapple with these difficult challenges.  If more teachers follow the guidelines she provides in this book, every student can learn about peace.” 

Ian Harris, Author of Books, not Bombs;
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; from the Foreword

“The writing is excellent: passionate and personal, blending serious content with an engaging,
reader-friendly style.  This is an important book—for character education and all of education.”

Thomas Lickona, Author of Character Matters; Director, Center for the 4th and 5th Rs;
Co-Director, Smart & Good Schools Initiative; State University of New York-Cortland

· Purchasing Information: 1-866-754-9125

àSpecial Sale Price of $30.00 per book (paperback) within the U.S.

Free shipping if you call and place your order by October 15th.)

Bulk Discounts & eBooks available.

  • Paperback 978-1-61735-426-7 Web Price: $39.09
  • Hardcover 978-1-61735-427-4 Web Price: $73.09

The author uses three imperatives—think, care, act—to infuse required curricula with peace, character, multicultural, and global concepts in daily activities throughout the year.  Committed to teaching for peace and justice, the author brings to life a teaching approach that empowers youth:

• to think critically and creatively about historical, current, and future issues,

• to care about classmates and neighbors as well as the global community,

• to act—locally and globally—for the greater good.

Chapters address critical and creative thinking; media literacy; compassionate classroom and school climate; explorations of racism, gender issues, civil discourse, global citizenship, war, and peace; and school, community, and global social-action projects.  Chapters include rationales, lesson expectations, and classroom “play-by-play.”  Students’ feedback about the impact of lessons is also featured.  With its combination of theory and practice Think, Care, Act is inspiring and unique. 

SUSAN GELBER CANNON is a peace and character educator with over 25 years of classroom experience.  Trained in moral development at Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cannon teaches history and English, as well as Model UN, peacemaking, and debate at The Episcopal Academy near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. 

“To act in a world whose problems seem overwhelming requires being able to use the powers of critical and creative thinking and compassionate and inclusive care. 
Employing these tools, adults and youth alike can act effectively and conscientiously to solve problems big and small, global and local.”
Susan Gelber Cannon

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Healthy Relationships with Technology: Building real and virtual relationships

As the school year begins, we might offer information about healthy relationships with technology to the families of our students.  How does this connect with teaching students to think, care, and act?  We strive to promote good relationships at home to support the children we teach, and strong families contribute to a culture of peace.  We also aim to help students develop media literacy—to develop what Noam Chomsky calls “intellectual self defense.”  We accept that new technologies are crucial to our lives and teaching today.  We have seen the role of technology in non-violent social change as well.  However, we also need to help our students, families, and ourselves pay attention to the inner life, to the immediate, to the truly alive, to the real person in front of us, and to making true—as well as virtual—connections.

Sherry Turkle directs the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self and has written numerous books on human interaction with technology, including Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.”  In an interview on the radio show On Being, Turkle shares ways—and whys—parents should model healthy relationships with technology for their children.  The following is a summary of her findings, including quotes from the online transcript of the interview. 

Ms. Sherry Turkle:  “I don't have a crazy nostalgia for, you know, an unplugged life…   I'm just saying that we have to ask ourselves really what is served by having an always-on, always-on you, open-to-anyone-who-wants-to-reach-us way of life?  Because in my research, I've found that it actually cuts off conversations as much as it opens out conversations. So, for example, you can be too busy communicating to think...”

She deals with issues of personal time, interpersonal and inner connectedness, “aliveness,” intimacy, and privacy issues.  Can we really tune in to nature’s tranquility, for example, when we walk along the beach with our earphones in, texting?  Does it matter that children no longer care if a thing is truly “alive?”

She says we are living with an immature medium, and in a sense, WE have become ITS killer app.  How?  Because we are always on. 

Turkle explains a line from her book, “‘Just because we grew up with the Internet, we think that the Internet is all grown up.’ That is that we think that we have a mature Internet in front of us, and we don't. We don't have a mature Internet in front of us. We're in the baby stages, and that's good because that means we can make it right.”

Turkle explains that while parents worry their children are too connected, their children report feeling the loss of their parents’ connection as well. 

She was surprised at her research findings: “It ended up that it was a story of parents — as much a story of parents leaving their children feeling lonely and alone and modeling the very behavior that then they came to find irritating in their children…..  In psychology, it says, ‘If you don't teach your children to be alone, they'll only always know how to be lonely.’ "

For healthy relationships, she encourages us to find times for being fully with each other:

“To make our life livable, we have to have spaces where we are fully present to each other or to ourselves, where we're not competing with the roar of the Internet and, quite frankly, where the people around us are not competing with the latest news off the Facebook status update.” 

Her rules for setting limits, based on decades of research with new media and technology, are simple: Make moments to truly be with each other.

“It's dinner, it's sharing meals with your family, it's that moment at school pickup when your kid looks up and is trying to meet your eye. You know, you're looking down at your smartphone and your child is trying to meet your eye.  I have enough data from children who're going through this experience to know that it's a terrible moment for them.  It's on the playground…. I mean, be in the park. Be in the park with them….  Make it a moment. These are important moments.”

n  Sherry Turkle was interviewed by Krista Tippett on the American Public Media program On Being (formerly Speaking of Faith).  The full interview and rich resources (including podcasts, transcripts, and blogs about the show, entitled “Alive Enough?”) are available at