Author: Amelia Joselow, CCC Director of Marketing and Outreach, Green Program Director, Cambridge Winter Farmers Market co-manager
Some might think of community as a stationary thing- a neighborhood, a community center, or a church. So it’s basically a place right? But what if community is not a tight net of connections in a certain location or among specific people, what if it is a power line you carry with you always, ready to spark and connect with others and plug into the world around you, even with strangers?
In an article in “The Art of Manliness” (don’t be put off by the name, it is actually a blog that tackles many social issues), John Corcoran runs a 21-day experiment of being kind to and making conversation with strangers. What did he find? He felt happier and grateful for having made these connections. He learned interesting things and was able to help others too.
Corcoran was not the first person to test what would happen. Researchers Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder of the University of Chicago studied when the Metra, Chicago’s subway, introduced “quiet cars” where people were not allowed to talk on cellphones and were discouraged from speaking with others. The people they surveyed predicted that they would be happier with a quieter commute, but they were surprised by what they found. In a New York Times article about the experiment Epley writes,
“In experiments we conducted over the last several months, we found the same to be true while commuting. In one experiment, we asked Metra commuters in one group to "enjoy their solitude" and refrain from speaking to other commuters. Others were asked to talk to another passenger. A final group received no instructions. At the end of their ride, these commuters filled out a survey about themselves and the commute.
The results? Commuters asked to interact with other passengers reported having the most pleasant commute. Commuters asked to enjoy their solitude reported the least pleasant commute. The pleasure of conversation was not just restricted to friendly people; we found the same results among introverts and extroverts.”
At the end of his article Epley implores readers to try reaching out to others, and this is what John Corcoran did in his own 21-day experiment. In his blog Corcoran included some short stories from his experience:
“Friday, May 9th, a hotel pool, Calabasas, CA. While visiting my family hometown for a wedding, I encounter a man sitting on the side of the hotel pool as I am about to go swimming with my son. He has a small white dog that my son pets and we start talking. It turns out he’s just moved to the area with his family from Chicago. I tell him what I know about the community, the schools, and particular neighborhoods where he’s looking to buy a home.
He’s appreciative for my advice on the local high school, the same school I graduated from.
How I Felt: The interaction makes me feel useful and valuable. His daughter is about to enter my old high school and he seems relieved when I tell him it was a good school.”
Corcoran does say that there are barriers to reaching out, and offers some suggestions: “put down you iPhone and other device,” “wear a conversation starter,” (which apparently first female Secretary of State Madeleine Albright did with broaches) “offer a compliment,” and “seize your conversation opportunities immediately.” The results, according these studies and stories, are worth it.
So how about that, huh? Many times a day we find ourselves around strangers- walking down the street, waiting for the bus, sitting on the subway, in line at the grocery store- and out of habit we keep to ourselves. It takes effort to reach out. In this last story, Corcoran reached out as a part of his experiment to feel happier, but he also had a positive impact on this stranger’s life. And isn’t that what community is all about? Being connected to others and having a positive influence on each other?
So what does “carrying community with you” mean? Just that idea, that we could connect with those around us if we wanted to, and we could make our lives happier by doing so. So if you could build community wherever you go, if you could make the world a happier place with just a few words or a short conversation, well... why not try it out?
Author: Darrin Korte, Director of Out-of-School Time Programs, The Hip Hop Transformation Program Director
From its inception, hip hop music and culture has represented the voice of a movement. The descendant of spirituals, jazz, blues, and rock, hip hop has evolved through constant innovation to become arguably the most passionate art form in our society today. While many people only think of rap music when they think of hip hop, hip hop culture takes the form of many different genres such as dance, graffiti, DJaying, and fashion. At its core, hip hop still carries this history and message of unity with it. However, due to many outside forces and influences, hip hop has developed an image as being hyper violent, misogynistic, and anti social leading many to believe that hip hop is a negative influence on the youth who consume it.
Author: Amelia Joselow, Director of Marketing and Outreach, Green Program Director, Cambridge Winter Farmers Market co-manager.
It is hard to imagine, but it is time to start thinking about summer programs. Families prepare early to get their children into the right program for them, and summer programs prepare early to make sure they have the very best to offer youth. But what's the rush all about? Why does it matter?
1. Summer programs keep children's minds active over the summer months, to avoid the "brain dump" that can occur when a child leaves school. With a general enrichment summer program, youth return to school in the fall ready to continue learning; not start over.
2. Summer programs keep kids active! We live an an increasingly screen-centered world- televisions, computers, tablets, phones- but children need to move around to stay healthy! Summer programs usually offer outdoor time, sports, swimming, and more physical activities. Summer is not a time to be a couch potato; it is a time to get out in the sun and have some fun!
3. Summer programs build confidence and a positive attitude. "Ninety-six percent of campers say that 'camp helped me make new friends,' and 92 percent say, 'Camp helped me feel good about myself.' Seventy percent of camp parents say, 'My child gained self-confidence at camp' " (ACA, 2005). When children are a part of a group, a team, a program, they grow individually and together, an invaluable social and developmental experience.
4. Summer programs allow youth to explore new interests. Unlike the classroom, most summer camps allow youth to choose which activities they'd like to participate in. This choice and responsibility engages children and allows them to learn and enjoy something new or delve deeper into something they are already passionate about.
5. Summer programs serve families too. A day camp is not just a great place for a child to spend their days, it is a viable option for parents who need a flexible schedule to accommodate their work. While it works for some families to send their children to a sleep-away camp, for many children and parents that is not the right choice. Day programs keep children close to home and allow parents to communicate as often as they like with group leaders, directors, and staff to ensure that the children are receiving the very best.
Cowemoki Summer Enrichment Program, the K-8 summer program at the Cambridge Community Center, is proud to be a part of this tradition and to offer these important aspects to the community. Find out more about our program here. And get ready for summer! It will be here (hopefully) sooner than you think!