Originally we started out to write a series of children’s books with age appropriate messages of empathy, compassion, empowerment, inclusion and social responsibility. Our story ideas came from the many days of service we co-chaired over the years in our community and its schools. We envisioned through our beautifully illustrated short stories we could do our part in creating a better future beyond our neighborhoods. With Sheila’s talent in Graphic Arts and Vivian’s background in Communication Studies and Marketing along with some help from close friends, we thought we’d make a go of it.
In each of our stories that we told in rhyme, we have a child pondering how one person could make a difference. “What do you think that I can do to make the world better for me and for you?” After identifying a problem, the child comes up with a simple plan to solve it while enlisting the aid of classmates. Demonstrating empathy and collaboration and always with a positive empowering tone, the children learn to include, help fundraise and build multi-generational relationships. Together they realize “we can make the world better!“.
As we shared our story collection with colleagues and educators, it quickly became clear that our book series was more suited as a foundation for a social emotional learning curriculum than a bookstore. We had our work cut out for us and thus began our Can-Do Crew character enhancement program.
We sought out and received a great deal of expert advice and assistance along the way as we created our innovative, impactful and fun curriculum. In fact, the head of curriculum at our village’s elementary school helped us write our first Reader’s Theater scripts; the lead librarian helped shape our first games; and the superintendent of our school system helped critique our work.
With our hands-on approach, we piloted our curriculum with the third grade teachers at the Morton School of Excellence. We gained so much knowledge and insights from this classroom time and refined our program. Next we spent a year personally teaching all three units at Oglesby Elementary School in Chicago. Wow, that was extremely valuable to enhancing our courses and making them more day-to-day relevant both inside and outside the classroom with real life situations. We continued to improve our lesson plans from the instructor feedback we received from the Metropolitan Chicago YMCA Community Schools program. With each Can-Do Crew rollout experience, we enriched our lessons to make them even more engaging, interactive and empowering.
The Can-Do Crew has truly been a labor of love for us. They say do what you are passionate about and it won’t feel like work. That’s been the case for us. We have enjoyed each step of its evolution from a children’s book to a character development curriculum that is a positive vehicle to develop resiliency and constructive responsibility. We are Kiki Stew and we hope you find our work worthwhile.