Unlocking Joy and Building Community at Cordata Elementary School

Houttuynia cordataPictured: Houttuynia cordata

The word Cordata comes from the Latin adjective meaning ‘heart-shaped’. This heart love comes through at Cordata Elementary where staff are dedicated to creating a safe, loving, supportive environment for their kids.

I recently had the privilege of facilitating an improv workshop with approximately 40 teachers at Cordata Elementary here in Bellingham. The principal, Analisa Ficklin, was a participant in a multi-session improv class that I taught. Last year I told her about the book, “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, Body, and the Healing of Trauma” by Bessel van der Kolk. (I have written about the book a few times on this blog.) She devoured it, and she started researching a group she had read about in the book – Urban Improv – a boston-based program that has impacted over 75,000 students in 125 schools in the Boston area.

I am more and more convinced that improv is a powerful tool for so many realms, not least of which are the children in our communities. I asked Analisa to respond to some questions after my improv workshop to give you a sense of her school, their vision, why she invited me to do improv with the teachers, and what impact it has had.

Here’s Analisa in her own words. Continue reading “Unlocking Joy and Building Community at Cordata Elementary School”

Addressing Homelessness through Presence and Play

Hans - painted face


Hans Erchinger-Davis, executive director of Lighthouse Mission Ministries

The Lighthouse Mission serves people experiencing homelessness in Bellingham. And they have been at it for nearly a century.

On February 14 – YES Valentine’s Day, AND also Ash Wednesday – I had the privilege of leading 22 staff from the Lighthouse Mission in a 90-minute improv workshop. It seemed a perfect day – remembering that besides the red hearts and romance, love is also about suffering and enduring. And it’s about Presence and Play.

Hans and I sat down afterwords on the window ledge in the park building at Maritime Heritage Park, so I could hear his thoughts about the improv workshop, what it was like for he and his staff, and why cultivating presence and experiencing Play are vital.

What was the improv workshop like for you?

Hans: It felt very freeing, because we got to play together, and also learn some real life application. Especially in the work we do – working with people experiencing homelessness — there is a lot of relational give-and-take that goes on between staff and guests, among the staff, and its really fantastic that your workshop requires us to tune in to each other… to really hear and see what’s happening and be able to respond in a way that is helpful. There’s a real power in people feeling like others are attentive to their presence – what they are saying, and who they are. Continue reading “Addressing Homelessness through Presence and Play”