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Mom creates 'Montessori-inspired' home to increase toddler independence

Having children can present challenges that you may not always think about until it presents itself. Parents spend time preparing for a baby by baby proofing the house to make sure there's nothing dangerous that a newly exploring baby could get into. But when they become toddlers the focus shifts slightly to making the home more accessible to their little curious minds.

One mom decided that she would create a "Montessori-inspired" living space for her home to cater to her daughter's development. Roxan posted a video on social media showing how her home is set up with smaller versions of things in order to make sure her toddler can reach them. Cereal dispensers are on a small shelf that comes to the toddler's hip. There's tiny sink and soap dispenser so she can wash her hands and brush her teeth. Even the coat rack is down on the little girl's level.


The caption on the video reads in part, "Setting up a Montessori-inspired spaces at home helps your child learn and do things independently. Creating a special spot in a closet or drawer with reachable items allows them to practice everyday tasks by themselves. These prepared spaces not only promote independence but also boost confidence, making your child feel valued and included. Everything at Kalia’s height and everything in its own place ensures easy access to all her needs.Encouraging age-appropriate tasks fosters important life skills. Children thrive when they can do things on their own."

Parents in the comments were impressed with Roxan's system but expressed how expensive it looks to be. The mom pointed out that these are things you can do without going out and buying expensive play kitchens to convert.

"No need for extra furniture. Get creative with what you have, like using stools to reach the bathroom sink or placing utensils and snacks in lower cabinets. Simple adjustments can go a long way in making your home more accessible for your child," Roxan explains to another mom.

But for those who think this is extremely expensive to do, while the mom doesn't point it out, she has most of the items linked in her bio and people may be surprised at how affordable most of the things are. If you're curious at how a Montessori-inspired house could work, check out the video below.

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When Heather Campbell-Lieberman first applied to teach at Lakota East High School in Ohio, she had one request:

She needed the school to let her students give away a thousand dollars.

In her previous teaching position, Campbell-Lieberman had incorporated the values of Magnified Giving into her curriculum. The Ohio-based organization inspires and engages students around philanthropy by offering them a $1,000 grant to give away to the charity of their choice.Alumni of the program have even gone on to work in the Ohio State House.


But each school only gets one grant per year, which means the students have to work together to decide the best way to spend it. That's where the education part comes in.

[rebelmouse-image 19528205 dam="1" original_size="1200x581" caption="Butler County, Ohio, where Lakota East High School is located. Photo by S&Mj Adventures." expand=1]Butler County, Ohio, where Lakota East High School is located. Photo by S&Mj Adventures.

The celebrated stories of student philanthropy typically come from private schools and honor roll programs. But the students at Lakota East don't fit into those categories.

Cambell-Lieberman was hired to teach a course called English & Connections, which she describes as akind of applied hybrid of life skills and writing, reading, and storytelling that caters to at-risk students — those who come from low-income or undersupported families or who struggle with disabilities or other marginalized identities. (Other Magnified Giving programs have engaged students with autism as well.)

"Many of the population in my classes are students who are typically served by nonprofits, so it's a whole different mindset for them to get in a place to be on the giving end," she explains. "You get to kind of turn it around and say 'You have something to give,' whether that's your time, your talent, or your treasure."

Photo by Heather Campbell-Lieberman.

Magnified Giving allows Campbell-Lieberman's students to apply lessons from English and life skills in one project.

Each student in Campbell-Lieberman's three class sections spends four months working on a research paper about a charity of their choice. Then they pitch their case in a class presentation. In order to succeed, students need to explore things like overhead costs, operating budgets, volunteer arrangements, and more: Where is this money going, and what's it being used for?

Students vote on the best presentation in each class, and representatives from the three winning organizationsare then invited to an assembly to speak directly to the students and explain why, exactly, their charity deserves the funds.

"Whether or not their agency is selected by the classes, the students are informing their peers about the power and impact of that agency. So they take a lot away from that opportunity," Campbell-Lieberman says."It's something personal they can research and ultimately have an impact on."

A student activity involving empathy for people with disabilities. Photo by Heather Campbell-Lieberman.

The most remarkable part? The students almost always end up picking projects that have directly helped their fellow students.

A lot of Campbell-Lieberman's students spend their time at the local teen community center, and technically, they could put that thousand dollars toward a renovated basketball court or a cutting-edge computer lab for everyone to enjoy — you know, something fun and enjoyable and still technically nonprofit.

But that's not what happens, Campbell-Lieberman says. "Almost always, the students have ultimately selected a charity that one of the students has benefitted from."

She lists a cascade of examples: a student who pitched a homeless shelter at the local Ronald McDonald House, without telling the class they had lived there themselves; cancer charities that bonded the class through shared tragedy; mental health care initiatives; and this past year, a nearby support center for victims of domestic violence.

Campbell-Lieberman goes on to explain that, "The at-risk population sometimes has more experience with these things, and so it's a highly personal connection for them, and a huge shift to be able to give back to agencies that have impacted their lives in a significant way."

Photo by Heather Campbell-Lieberman.

The takeaway is clear: Teens really do care about their communities. They just need a chance to make an impact.

That's why, after eight years of success with Magnified Giving, Campbell-Lieberman is stepping out of the classroom and into the role of a teaching coach, helping other educators launch these kinds of interdisciplinary philanthropy curriculums in their own schools and communities.

"I think the real issue in creating new philanthropists is for people to understand that everyone can contribute to the betterment of their community and their society, and you don't have to be wealthy and you don't have to have money in your pocket to make that happen," she says.

"The more we can do that and connect with kids who would not volunteer for the philanthropy club, would not be in national honor society, the more difference we can make."

Interested in Magnified Giving? Learn more (or consider making a donation).

The stage is set. The actors put the final touches on their costumes and wait nervously in the wings. The audience is ushered in by an armed guard or two. It's showtime.

This is not an ordinary production of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar."  This is Shakespeare at San Quentin State Prison.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.


Since 2003, actors and staff from the Marin Shakespeare Company have taught classes at San Quentin, the state prison just a few miles away.

The company has always boasted a rich social outreach program to get Shakespeare's work out to as many people as possible. The prison population was nearby, and managing director Lesley Currie said they seemed like a logical fit for courses. So she and her team decided to give it a try.

"At first it was very poorly attended, but after a few years, we had enough men in the class to actually put on a full-length Shakespeare play in the prison chapel," Currier said in a phone interview. "And since then, it's just taken off."

LeMar Harrison (C) and Carlos Flores (R) take the stage. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

After their first full-length production, interest in the classes skyrocketed. These days, Currier sometimes manages a waitlist or two.

The sessions don't just focus on Shakespeare. Through exercises and activities, they also cover conflict resolution and positive decision making.

The classes are team taught, and local actors and directors often volunteer their time too. In addition to acting, the courses include lessons in self-reflection and teamwork. With the help of drama therapy students, the classes can also go a little deeper, allowing the inmates to work on their social skills.

"In a typical two and a half hour class, we'll often spend an hour doing all kinds of different exercises that are designed to build acting skills but also designed to build human skills," Currier said.

John Windham (L) and Richie Morris (C) rehearse lines before their performance. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

She often ends each class with what she calls, "group decision-making exercises." These creative assignments might ask participants to work as a team to turn lines from a play into a song and dance or a poem; or have them rewrite certain scenes, forcing characters to make a different choice.

According to Currier: "One of our students said, 'I've done a lot of conflict resolution work since I've gone to prison, but that kind of exercise is the best conflict resolution work I've ever done.'"

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

But as with the bard himself said, the play's the thing.

Since the early days of the program, the participants have put on more than a dozen full-length Shakespeare plays at San Quentin. The inmate actors work for months putting each show together. Memorizing lines, building sets, and getting into character is tough work, and the actors take their roles very seriously.

Because, for them, it's not just something to do, it's a point of pride and a place for self-expression.

Azraal Ford gets ready to play Julius Caesar. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

"One man said, 'I've been in prison for 12 years, I have a 12-year-old daughter, and all she's ever known about me is that I'm in prison. And today she gets to know that I'm a Shakespeare star."

The inmates' families aren't allowed into the facility to see the productions (the audience is mostly made up of other inmates), but each performance is recorded and put online so families can see their stars in action whenever they want.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Support from the state has allowed the program to expand to two more correctional facilities too.

"Three years ago the state actually started funding arts in corrections, and we were one of the first seven organizations in the state of California to get a grant," Currier said.

The grant allowed the program to expand to inmates at Solano State Prison in Vacaville, where inmates are working on "Hamlet" and "King John." And the Folsom Women's Facility, about 25 miles east of Sacramento, where they're working on "Taming of the Shrew."

The expansion gives more inmates a chance to take advantage of this powerful program.

"When you hear the men talk about why they do it and why it's important to them [the men and the women now] it just makes you realize, just more deeply what it means to be a human being on this planet," Currier said.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

But the best part? It's really having a positive effect on the participants.

Programs like this are a win for everyone involved, and that's why California and other states continue to make the investment.

"Research has shown that structured arts programs improve inmates' problem-solving skills and self-discipline and increase their patience and their ability to work with others," said California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Secretary Jeff Beard in a written statement. "These programs also direct inmates' energy in a positive direction, promote positive social interaction and lower tension levels, resulting in a safer environment for inmates and staff."

An inmate watches the performance. The audience is limited to inmates and select outside guests. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Most importantly, for the actors and their teachers, these programs can be life-changing.

"Most California state prisons have versions of 12-step programs ... and most have some kind of education program where you can get your GED or do college coursework, and those are really important," Currier said. "But the arts are really important as well. Being able to engage with other people through the arts — that's a different kind of social learning than you can get writing an essay."

Anthony Passer (L) and Maurice Reed (R) rehearse lines before the big show. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Whether it's "Hamlet," "Julius Caesar," or "Taming of the Shrew," it turns out that some of the best shows in California are behind lock and key.

They're full of heart, passion, and pride. The actors' performances transport the audience to worlds previously unimagined, even if just for a few hours. And when you're living in a restrictive environment, that's a beautiful, life-changing gift.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.