September 4, 2009

Fair Trade Curriculum Courses

Win Win Solutions: An Introduction to Fair Trade and Cooperative Economics.
Equal Exchange’s 124-page curriculum provides a link between personal actions and community efforts to create a more just and sustainable world. This interdisciplinary resource is designed for grades 4-9 and addresses standards from a wide variety of subjects. The flexible structure allows teachers to incorporate individual experiential activities into current lesson plans or use all four units. Addresses national curriculum standards from a variety of subject areas. Available online for free download at

Setting a Higher Bar: Global Exchange’s Fair Trade Cocoa Unit for Kids. This full unit from Global Exchange has nine ready-to-use lesson plans using inquiry-based learning and encouraging critical thinking. The unit was written broadly for grades 2-5, but is suitable for younger and older students with adaptation. While primarily a social studies unit integrating language arts, it also includes art, math, and life science. Designed to be supported by the Global Exchange Fair Trade Chocolate Book. Book AND unit are available for free download at

Focus on Fair Trade from TransFair USA . Each unit highlights our global interdependence by focusing on three different Fair Trade foods: Chocolate Explorers (grades K-2), Banana Bonanza (grades 3-6), and Coffee Connections (grades 7-12). Units include lesson plans and address relevant national standards with ideas for accessible, interactive activities on topics ranging from geography, economics, social studies, history, environmental studies, and marketing. Download for free at

Maya Arts and Crafts of Guatemala /Artes y Artesanias Mayas de Guatemala, Bilingual Coloring Book. Pictures and text illustrate the importance of arts and crafts in the lives of the Maya. Two Teacher and Parent Guides are available online for free download: Kids and Fair Trade, which contains lessons designed to help children understand how Fair Trade helps address some of the injustices inherent in our present trading system, and Learning From the Maya About Diversity, Culture and Ecology. For more information about ordering the coloring book or to download Teacher Guides, visit:

September 3, 2009

Constitution - September 17th

In this day and age, our students are witnessing massive changes in our country, perhaps even larger than they (or we) can comprehend.

On September 17, Constitution Day, schools receiving federal funds are required to integrate the Constitution into their lessons. The day offers an opportunity for all of us to teach students something about the Constitution, the document that unites us as Americans across our various political views. Taking some time to discuss the Constitution in your classroom can help students make sense of this unique historical moment by connecting the rights it protects to current issues like domestic spying, preventive detention, and the expansion of executive power.

Because it implicates so many subjects, the Constitution can be an apt subject for a lesson plan regardless of what you teach, or at what level. The Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) has compiled and developed a series of resources to make it easier for teachers to bring these issues into their classrooms. Additionally, BORDC has grassroots volunteers in a variety of locations available to serve as guest lecturers.

Please consider a lesson focused on the Constitution and its current relevance on September 17. Several lesson plans are available online. Feel free to use them in any way you wish, and please share feedback on your students' experiences.

Finally, please contact Emma Roderick at BORDC if you're interested in (a) inviting a BORDC guest lecturer to visit your class, (b) helping compile lesson plans or other curricular materials about current constitutional issues, or (c) working with other volunteers to draft a report about troubling and pervasive security measures in schools. In your email, please include your school's zip code and a phone number where we can reach you.

Thank you for your invaluable work preparing our nation's future leaders.


Flavia Alaya, Bridgeton, NJ
Barbara Ehrentreu, North White Plains, NY
Elizabeth Hanson, Lake Forest Park, WA
Meagan Magrath, Springfield, MA
Bradley Olson, Evanston, IL

and other members of the BORDC Educators Team

P.S. Feel free to share this email with your colleagues, both at your school and in other schools.

Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Address: 8 Bridge Street, Suite A, Northampton, MA 01060
Telephone: 413-582-0110
Fax: 413-582-0116

Health Care: It's Broke. Fix It, Already!

Lily Eskelsen
NEA Vice President

We’ve now seen that dangerous combination of bad information and sincere people who believe it because they read it on the internet:

Town Hall Q. Do you support death panels that want to murder my grandmother?
Town Hall A. Say what?

Yes, it’s entertaining, and there’s a musical in the works based on the actual transcripts of Barney Frank’s town hall meeting. But for now, let’s be party poopers and stick to facts. Let’s talk about what’s broken and what we could do to fix it.

I’m a teacher. We have pretty good health insurance. So why do we care? Well, we care about our communities. We care that a lot of our students and their families don’t have access to quality health care. Those kids miss a lot of school, and that hurts them academically.

And even if you have good insurance, you’ll notice it’s not as good as it was ten years ago. You’ll notice paychecks are smaller as employers pay ever higher premiums to insurance companies that spend 30 cents out of every dollar on administrative overhead.

Hopefully, you won’t be among the people with insurance who find out what isn’t covered when they get sick and make a claim. Or those who have faithfully paid premiums for years only to find their insurance cancelled just before their prostate surgery as they’re notified they neglected to report an unrelated but previously-existing hangnail.

One man’s job stops providing family insurance, and he can’t afford to pick up the $1,000 monthly premium. One woman can’t get insurance because she’s young enough to get pregnant. Another because she’s old enough to need hormone therapy.

We all need this reform. Without decent coverage, medical bankruptcies will impact more families and local economies. Wages will stagnate as more of our wealth is shoveled into the bureaucratic abyss of insurance companies. It will crash in the end.

And when it does, we’ll reach the critical mass of the motivated that allowed Medicare to pass. In 1965, there were no town hall shouting matches. Why? Because seniors tend to have bad hearts and bad eyes and bad hip joints. Insurance companies didn’t want them. There was no motivation for them to oppose it.

The motivated folks were terrified seniors rejected by health insurance companies as a bad risk whose greatest fear, other than getting sick, was becoming a burden to their families.

The motivated folks were the adult kids of seniors who were desperately caught between helping their parents pay doctor bills and risking their own financial security.

The motivated folks were the hospitals that were left with expensive end-of-life treatments and no one to pay the bill.

When some guy would stand up and call it socialized medicine, the motivated folks would tell him to sit down and shut up. People wanted a public option called Medicare. It isn’t perfect. But it fixed the worst of what was broken.

It’s important that House reform proposals contain a similar public option. If you like your private insurance, keep it. For working people who fit better with a public option, they would finally have the choice.

Premiums would be based on your ability to pay, so everyone can afford reasonably priced insurance. Reform would end the nasty gotcha game of pre-existing conditions – no insurance would ever again be able to deny or cancel coverage because of past illness. All proposals keep choices of private doctors, clinics and hospitals.

The problem is real. And now we have real solutions and a rare opportunity to bring common-sense to our crazy quilt of a non-system.

No more shouting of absurdities. This is too important. Speak the truth. Calmly but with conviction. Call your member of Congress. Your senator. Tell them it’s time to lead our country something that works for all of us.


TAKE ACTION! Sign up as a Cyber Lobbyists and send your health care message NOW!

Health Care Lies Being Spread to Seniors

The Price of Private Insurance Overhead

Cancelling the Insured because of Pre-Existing Conditions

Medical Bankruptcies

President Obama on a Public Option to private insurance