What does your name mean?
When AMAZE first began, our founders were sitting around a kitchen table. Our work began under a different name – the Families All Matter Project—but someone was already using that name so we had to change it. As we reflected on the work, someone said, “this journey is a maze.” This sentence caught everyone’s imagination. Thoughts kept spinning: we have to travel this maze, this work is amazing, watching students and teachers transform is amazing, and more. And so the name was born.
Is AMAZE research based?
Yes. Click here for key texts that inform our work. Each AMAZE curriculum is grounded in up to date research on child development, on how children understand differences, on developmental vulnerability to biases and stereotypes, and on strategies for diminishing bias levels.
If I don’t have money in my budget to pay for this, how do I fund it?
This is a really common question. AMAZE has prepared a fundraising source sheet to help with thinking this through. We know that finding money for training can be difficult. Take a look at our fundraising toolkit and see what might fit for you. And also feel free to talk with us. While we can’t come to your town for free, we might be able to think of some other strategies together. But read and think about this toolkit first.
How is AMAZE different from other social and emotional curricula?
AMAZE combines our social and emotional learning approach with anti-bias education and the latest research and best practices for preventing bullying and exclusion. We begin with believing that children need to have a positive sense of their own identity, which includes having their identities supported and witnessed by their teachers, friends and community members. This is the root of strong social and emotional development, having a positive sense of who you are without feeling better than anyone else. Stereotype and bias have such a huge potential to negatively impact children’s social and emotional development. For AMAZE, combining these are not optional but are instead the core of our work. We don’t believe it is possible to fully do social and emotional learning without this.
Why does AMAZE use books and storytelling in its work?
Because it works. There is a lot of research showing that storytelling is an effective approach to reducing children’s bias levels. We see this research play out in every classroom we work with. Stories give you a window into someone else’s world, or a mirror that reflects your similar experiences. The child is visible to themselves and is also aware of the lives of the other children in their room. The concept of “social issues” becomes about real people with real lives.
Story is a powerful way to allow any human being to talk about difficult issues in a safer, more comfortable way. For children, this approach allows each child to reveal just as much as they feel safe or are ready to reveal about their own story. They also have the option of not talking about themselves but talking about the story’s characters as a way of creating some safe distance.
Stories create the context for people to see themselves and the connection to be able to then see others.
How much time does it take to do a lesson?
AMAZE programs are intentionally designed to be flexible. Elementary schools can take 20 to 30 minutes to read and discuss a story or can extend that to an hour with additional enrichment activities. Early childcare programs can take 15 to 20 minutes for reading and discussion and can also add other enrichment activities. We are excited to talk with you about how to best use the materials to meet your needs and your available time.
How often should you do the lessons?
Again this varies. Each curriculum has enough material to last for a whole year. Some schools choose to do lessons once a week, others choose multiple times within the week and others choose to use their curriculum every day. In order to make change and to support integrated learning, AMAZE advises that both elementary and early childhood do the lessons at least once a week, but if you have the time and capacity, more often is encouraged.
How much staff time does it take to do the training and then share the curriculum?
Our curriculum and training is designed to be flexible in order to best meet your program’s needs. For Early Childhood programs, training takes 2 to 6 hours. Elementary school training is from 2 hours to a full day. Once the training has been completed, then the curriculum is ready to use. The content and the organization of the content is all ready to be implemented. What isn’t included in this time is the time for teacher reflection. Part of what our training and then your supported implementation provides is a structure to support learning, reflection, and integration for the educator. For AMAZE, the educator is at the center. For this reason, AMAZE also offers professional learning community support, consultation, and other forms of support including classroom observations and building-wide training for staff, support staff, parents, and others. The key to all of this is that our programming is flexible and can work with your capacity and your goals.
What is covered in the training?
Every training is built on the foundation of providing an understanding of child development and the research that backs that up. Each training includes an explanation of the curriculum, time modeling the curriculum, and then implementation planning time to help you in your own program. The training also includes time for community building and reflection. AMAZE cares about you as a teacher. We recognize that training time is not just about learning new information but also about having the time and space to reflect on your own work and development with your peers. And our trainings are creative, lively, interactive and dynamic. Children don’t want to sit still for hours on end and neither do those who educate them.
How do you get parents involved?
For our elementary program, AMAZE can train parents to partner with teachers as readers in the classroom. AMAZE also provides take home materials about the curriculum for students to bring home. We do presentations and trainings in PTA and PTO settings and can offer the teacher strategies for including parents in their program.
In our early childhood programs, AMAZE provides parents with a parallel experience to what their children are getting. Our goal is to include and engage parents in their children’s learning and growth. We first share an overview of the curriculum and an explanation of the background and goal for this work. Parents also receive activities to do with their children and a list of resources for further activities and engagement.
Does AMAZE do presentations?
Yes. AMAZE is often found giving keynotes and workshops at conferences and learning days, PTO and parent group presentations at local schools or district meetings, ECFE programs, and more. Wherever adults are gathered to focus on the education of children, AMAZE can provide information and reflection on educating children to be proud of their own identities and connected to the families, communities, and identities of the children around them. For a recent list of presentations, contact us.
What is anti-bias education theory?
Anti-bias education theory is the recognition that children notice differences, are vulnerable to stereotypes, and need caring adult help to grow into positive community members. The theory was developed by Louise Derman Sparks in the 1980s and the Anti-Bias Task Force in Pasadena, CA. AMAZE believes that anti-bias education is a crucial foundation for allowing every child to feel safe enough to learn in every classroom. The four goals of anti-bias education are that 1) every child gets to value all the parts of who they are without feeling better than or inferior to anyone else; 2) every child gets to empathize with and accept all the parts of who other people are and this includes other children and their families; 3) all children need to understand that bias exists, which is crucial for helping them make sense of the world around them; and 4) every child needs to develop skills for handling stereotypes and bias both directed towards them and towards others around them.
What is social and emotional learning?
Social and emotional learning (SEL) teaches the skills needed to support a student’s positive assets. SEL provides skills and practice through positive group work so that people can innovate, think, and learn. SEL looks at the stressors inhibiting thinking, thought, and learning by looking at the connections and relationships between students, students and teachers, and teachers and other teachers. If SEL skills aren’t taught and a child’s emotional needs are not met, learning is difficult and sometimes impossible. This is about emotional safety, a sense that a child will be respected and cared for while they are learning.
How does this prevent bullying?
AMAZE looks at bullying as a behavior and not a label or identity. If you label a child, they will live up to that label, so it is important to address the behavior and the causes of that behavior rather than thinking of the child as a problem We take a community wide approach, looking at the context around the behavior and the adults involved as well as the children. We know that all behavior is purposeful. We know that when a child’s needs are met and they feel safe, they don’t often need to exert power. We know that social and educational exclusion are just as damaging as being targeted by bullying. When children are given the opportunity to build on their innate empathy, they will build community where everyone feels safe and valued. We know that children see adults bullying each other daily. This bullying is about power and children experiment with power and identities. This is why our work focuses on building positive identities, supporting children to feel connected to their own identities and the identities of those around them, providing social and emotional support, and building understanding of bias and experience in confronting bias. It’s critical to address teasing, bullying, and exclusion as early as possible. This is about addressing these behaviors while they are still forming. All of these behaviors can become habits and those habits can become entrenched if caring adults don’t intervene.
While most anti bullying programs focus on the targets of bullying as the children at risk, our work focuses on all children involved in and experiencing bullying behavior. We know that the children who mistreat others are also at risk and that early intervention is crucial. AMAZE programs provide a large and flexible toolbox for each child to deal with bias and exclusion when it arises.
What ages of children should use persona dolls?
Persona dolls work best with children from ages 3 through 7 or preschool through first grade.
What ages is the curriculum appropriate for?
Early childhood curriculum is for preschool through kindergarten, but is still developmentally appropriate for first grade. The elementary curriculum, or FAM, is for grades 1 through 5.
Where do you get your books?
All of our books are trade books. AMAZE does not publish the books we use. We use high quality children’s literature written from authentic voice whenever possible. AMAZE scours the globe looking for the best books. This means we get our books from a wide range of distributors and publishing houses.
How do you choose your books?
AMAZE looks for books that present an authentic voice, have an engaging story line and illustrations, show diversity within diversity, and do not perpetuate stereotypes. To select books that represent a specific community or experience, AMAZE brings together a task force of those who share that identity or experience. The Task force takes the visionary lead on creating new lessons and programs. AMAZE updates our books regularly so that they are fully relevant to the lives that children are living today.
How will AMAZE programs help with classroom management?
AMAZE programs prevent the behaviors that have to be managed. When you have shared experiences and build connections with your students so that everyone is more visible to the other, it reduces the need for behavior management. Students are better able to self regulate because they feel safe enough to be themselves.
Our early childhood programs build basic social skills to help children learn in a relaxed neutral setting, They learn the basic skills of understanding and regulating your own emotions, building friendships, and getting along with one another. Persona dolls are a fabulous tool for teaching, because they allow children to learn by teaching and mentoring the dolls. Kids become the problem solvers in an environment when their brains aren’t flooded with cortisol and other stress hormones. The persona dolls are especially important for those kids who come to school already stressed. Working with persona dolls shifts the dynamic. Rather than having two children always try and work through things with each other, sometimes working first with the persona doll will help shift the dynamic.
Part of the elementary curriculum focuses on action and involvement as part of a community. Children are supported to learn and practice standing up against bias and stereotype when they see it. Intervention strategies are provided to help students participate as active members of their communities and their learning.
What if one of these subject matters is really personal for one of my students?
This will happen, and you won’t always be aware of it. That’s why the training and the teacher guides are so important. It is very important for children to see their experiences reflected in classroom materials by someone who is as important to them as you are in their lives. By introducing the subjects found in the curriculum, you become a trusted adult who sees and respects their lives and their families. This builds your assets as an educator. Often children discover that other children have gone through something that is similar to them, even if it not exactly the same. Children automatically build commonality with other kids in the room.
As educators, you are not robots. The specifics of your own identities and experiences also matter. AMAZE materials cover a broad range of issues. They are intended to reflect the lives of your students as well as your own. By talking about the specificity of our own experiences, we can show them as an asset rather than a problem. AMAZE provides the tools and training to make it easy to have these conversations with your classroom.
Why is it important to initiate conversations about differences in my classroom?
Because they are there and because children are having these conversations already. Whether you hear them or not, kids are already having these conversations and they are forming implicit biases.
Is there some way to connect with other teachers who are using or who have used these materials?
Yes. AMAZE is used across the country. Contact us for more information. You can also link to this page to read some testimonials from others who have already used our materials.
Where are these materials being used?
All over the country in schools, childcare centers, after school programs, and other educational settings, in cities, suburbs, rural communities, and on tribal reservations. You can click here for a sample list of places that use AMAZE materials.