Get ready! Here’s a new exciting community building project that is both simple and timeless. Introducing the SuperKid Power Recycling Bag Project brought to you by the one and only Janai ‘Grandma Boom’ Mestrovich. In today’s interview, I speak with her about this visionary project and mission of social-emotional learning. We discuss the project and explore ways that we as a community can step up to participate.
Janai, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me today. Let’s jump right in. Please tell me about your latest community project.
Imagine you are a child going through a pandemic being isolated and learning on Zoom. Activities and experiences are limited. You are bored, feel disconnected, sometimes angry, and depressed. Then fresh air comes through an opportunity window.
You are given a plain canvas bag and fabric crayons to design your own recycling bag. You see signs in store windows acknowledging you are a SUPERKID, realizing you are appreciated for helping to recycle. People compliment you. Suddenly, you feel connected; you feel purpose; you feel needed; you feel responsible; your inner strength is fueled and you understand what it is to have Superkid Power. You feel more alive and confident as your own Superhero.
THAT is a tiny glimpse of what this Superkid Power Recycling Bag Project accomplishes. 1200 canvas bags and 500 fabric crayon boxes were provided for children to decorate their own recycling bags, generously funded by Starseed Foundation and created by Janai ‘Grandma Boom’ Mestrovich through Superkid Power, Inc., a non profit, tax exempt 601(c) 3 organization.
The Ashland Chamber of Commerce printed flyers for store windows. It reads: “SUPERKIDS Thank you for using your recycling bags. We appreciate your help!” The community (our ‘village’) is prioritizing focus on children participating in recycling. I promote the importance of helping children to help us in being part of the SOLUTION needed in our community and our world. This establishes a pattern for them at a young age to contribute to society and feel connected as a vital part of the solution in cooperation with us, their elders and caretakers.
Children LOVE having fun designing their own bags. It builds confidence to know they count. Ownership experience motivates them from the inside-out instead of simply following a rule someone mandates from outside themselves.
Janai, can you give us a little bit of background and context for this project?
Absolutely! Years ago when I lived up north, I spearheaded this project which eventually spread to 9,000 children around Oregon. It is time now for us to bring children into the circle of solutions and recognize them as young stewards of our earth home. When WE see their value, THEY will see their value. The pandemic conditions diminished their childhood freedom. Now we can help them retrieve their strength and soar into a new land.
During the pandemic I wasn’t able to go into classrooms in my costumes teaching my expertise of fun Three Dimensional (3D) Social Emotional Learning. As I reflected and asked for guidance about how to reach children NOW, the answer kept repeating itself in my meditations to find funding for this recycling project.
This is a creative experience that serves purpose and is integral in 3D SEL (social emotional learning) via my expertise providing children accelerated ways to advance in skills. What could be better than for children to learn how to make good choices aligned with needs on the planet and realize they are an integral part of what is needed as we act on solutions together. It is REAL and not flat-lined like a Zoom lesson or memorization. The children are learning to actively CARE and contribute.
Janai, I love the simple yet far-reaching impact of this project. Please take us behind the scenes and break it down for us. What are the key components of this magical project?
First step: Secure funding from Starseed Foundation. Delivery of 1200 canvas bags (10 heavy boxes) and 4 heavy boxes of fabric pens began residing in my small living room. Creating parent letters, printing 1200, inserting them into all bags with help from a young neighbor, Audrey. Create/print teacher instructions. Contact schools, preschools, homeschoolers ahead of time. Set up delivery dates with desired number of bags and crayons for each with planned delivery dates. March to stores requesting support by putting flyers in their store front windows to encourage and rally around Superkids who recycle using their personally designed recycle bags. Some stores choose to prioritize and place the flyer in storefront windows. Corporate entities refuse non store-related advertisements. Some stores don’t want anything in their windows but may put it on a counter inside. My attempt has been to get flyers where children will SEE them, knowing their ‘village’ is proud of them and grateful for their recycling. Paddington Station and Northwest Discovery were the first two village stores to gladly put flyers in their store front windows. Being flamboyant, I would love a banner across Main Street!
Janai, please tell us more specifically about who is participating and who has helped to sponsor this project?
STARSEED FOUNDATION is funding this project and has offered to fund another round of supplying bags and crayons if more requests come in through my website contact form. Participating: All Ashland School District Kindergarten and First Graders; 290 Talent Elementary students; SOU Preschool; Family Nurturing Center in Medford; Grants Pass Boys and Girls Club; Ashland Pre-K Head Start Migrant Division; several Head Start Classrooms in Ashland, Talent, Phoenix, Cave Junction, Medford; Children’s World Montessori; and some homeschoolers.
I´d love for you to take us in-depth now into the foundation for social-emotional learning? What is it and how does it work?
I created my award-winning pioneering approach 45 years ago that is three dimensional: 3D Social Emotional Learning. Because of my leading expertise teaching in the U.S. with preschool children as young as three, I was appointed to the Editorial Board of the Rosalynn Carter Institute and invited by the Surgeon General to represent the rural area for the U.S. at the Mental Health Conference for Children. The state of Oregon awarded me the honor of having the most exciting incubator program in the state. Television and other awards arose because this specialized approach accelerates social emotional learning. It provides fun experiences for children (and training adults) with objects from the external world to help them understand their internal resources of mind, body, emotions and breathing. Children become aware of how their internal world is a SYSTEM that is connected and works together.
For example, using a breathing sphere to slowly expand and contract helps children follow it with their ‘belly buttons’ for proper deep breathing. They SEE the slow expansion and contraction and FEEL it. Everything becomes real in the lessons, not just abstract concepts. My biofeedback-based scientific researched approach encompasses not only awareness, but paths and methods to recognize the internal connections leading to self-control. Children quickly become aware that bad choices feel bad, good choices feel good. Their own internal signals and triggers teach them about themselves.
Another example: THINK of a sad time. FEEL it in your body, where it is located (starts in one place). NOTICE your breathing pattern when sad. Next, THINK of a happy memory. FEEL it in your body, where it is located (starts in one place).
NOTICE your breathing pattern when happy. It is all connected and you chose to change the pattern in all the internal resources from sad to happy. TaDA!! Self awareness and self control.
How will this project expand and roll out into the community or other communities?
Starseed Foundation has promised another round of funding for requested bags/crayons by classrooms through my website www.superkidpower.org More plans for providing 3D Social Emotional Learning are underway.
What are real examples of positive messages that we as a community can share with young children when we see them with their recycling bags?
“WOW! What a great design on your bag! Did you color that?”
“Thank you for recycling with your special bag, SUPERKID!”
“You chose great colors to decorate your bag!”
“Can you tell me about your design on the bag?”
“I really like your bag you decorated!”
“I bet you had fun coloring that special bag of yours!”
“You really are a SUPERKID using your recycling bag!”
“You must be a SUPERKID since you are recycling!”
“SUPERKIDS who recycle really help the earth. Thank you.”
“I am so happy to see a SUPERKID using a recycling bag.”
“So proud of you recycling with your own great bag.”
“Your bag looks like a SUPERKID bag!”
“We are proud of you recycling and designing your own bag!”
“I bet you feel like a SUPERKID recycling with your own bag.”
Janai, what else do we need to know?
We are all planting seeds for children. They are always watching us to learn how they can be.
Our examples, compliments, encouragement and acknowledgments of how
important they are nourish their confidence and capacity to feel like Superkids who truly count. At home/school involve children in recycling and other earth friendly activities.
Finally, Janai, do you have any last words of inspiration you would like to share with our readers today?
Imagine it being ‘normal’ for all our children to have their own canvas recycling bags, to all learn the same stress skills and how their emotions work with their thoughts, body sensations and breathing. I dream of streaming into all Pre-K, K, and first grades for ten min. every week with a new 3D Social Emotional Learning lesson.
Let’s respect children for the whole persons that they ARE by giving them opportunities to access their full potential with experiences. Let’s rally around our future leaders. Encourage children to be SUPERKIDS! Their minds and hearts are listening. Thank you!
Free video/downloads for kids on website. Audio storytime downloads are very popular. Janai’s books at BugABoo on Ashland Plaza and Amazon: BEEING CALM coloring book, Jackson’s Fun Adventures, Dragonella, Superkid Saves the Day, Superkid Camp, Superkid Power Guidebook.
Janai ‘Grandma Boom’ Mestrovich
Life Coach; 3D Social Emotional Learning Trainer