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Inside Practically Paradise

Students Can Give Obama Advice

Last year I attended Susan Bosak’s workshop on Dreams in Nashville. This year the legacy project has a new event called "WEB OF DREAMS:  STUDENTS CAN GIVE OBAMA ADVICE." I wanted to be sure everyone saw this announcement and gave their students the opportunity to give advice to President-elect Barack Obama.

Adults have cast their votes. Now it’s time for students to be heard — by their parents and grandparents, by their teachers, and by the President-Elect of the United States. The idea of Legacy Project Chair and educator Susan Bosak, the Web of Dreams will enable children to send their advice to Barack Obama. The Legacy Project is also offering teachers a free online activity kit to help children understand the historic event taking place on January 20, 2009. The Honorary First School in the Web of Dreams is located in one of the most hard-fought states in the election, Indiana.

"The Web of Dreams is a way to connect children and teens to the important adults in their lives and to a moment in history, a legacy moment. I want to see stars in schools across the country," says Bosak, who works with schools and families across the US.

Each star represents the hopes and dreams of one young person. To participate in the Web of Dreams, children and teens create Dream Stars and display them in a prominent place to inspire everyone who sees them — other young people as well as teachers and parents. They submit their total number of stars on the Legacy Project website along with a message for Obama.

The Honorary First School is St. Monica School in Indianapolis.

Indiana was the last stop on Obama’s campaign trail on election day. Although Obama won the state, Indiana voters were almost evenly split between the two candidates. A No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon School, St. Monica serves a diversity of students from kindergarten to grade 8. They want to lead the way to a coming together in recognition of the legacy today’s leaders will leave for our children and grandchildren. St. Monica’s theme for this school year is "Teamwork Makes The Dream Work," which might well be a motto for the entire country as it works to reclaim the American Dream.

The Legacy Project also has a free online activity kit with dozens of ideas to help children understand the significance of the inauguration, and to encourage them to set and achieve their own personal and community goals. There are curriculum ties to the inauguration on January 20, 2009 as well as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on January 19 and February 12, 2009, which marks 200 years since the birth of Abraham Lincoln.

In Club of Dreamers, children choose a historical hero, from Sojourner Truth to Albert Einstein to Amelia Earhart. The Power of Words has them engage with the words that have changed the world, from Gandhi to King to Obama. And One Thing helps them explore the one thing they can do, whatever that may be for them, to make a difference in their own life and their community, and that change happens one step at a time.

Many of the activities are inspired by Bosak’s bestselling book

"Dream: A Tale of Wonder, Wisdom & Wishes," which is illustrated by 15 top children’s illustrators and has won 11 national awards, including an International Reading Association Children’s Choice and a Teachers’ Choice. The book is about achieving hopes and dreams across a lifetime.

"For me, this story begins almost three years ago, at a conference in Chicago," says Bosak. "Two teachers rushed up to me excited about using my book with their students. They also said that they needed another copy for someone else. They were volunteering on a campaign, they explained. They were helping this man. He was going to be the next President of the United States. They asked me to sign a copy of ‘Dream’ for him. When they told me his name, I asked them to spell it — slowly. It was an unusual name. And then I wrote the inscription using a line from the last page in the book: To Barack Obama, Be a Dreamer."

In the context of Bosak’s book, a Dreamer is someone like Sojourner Truth or Martin Luther King, Jr., someone who has the courage to make a difference.

"Every child should have dreams and goals — and the confidence and opportunity to pursue them. The Web of Dreams is a chance for young people to participate directly in a legacy moment that will affect their future," says Bosak.

Research shows it’s critical to get kids thinking early — in elementary and middle school — about what’s important to them and why. Dreams and goals help young people build toward the future, and offer a sense of hope.

"Dream" by Susan V. Bosak (TCP Press, $17.95) is available in bookstores. For more information on the Web of Dreams and the free online activities, visit