Education Feed

Come volunteer! Northwest Philadelphia

Northwest Volunteer Connect

Summit Presbyterian Church in Northwest Philadelphia partnered with the East and West Mount Airy Neighbor Associations to host a “volunteer connect” event on Saturday, January 6, 2024. The format was like a job fair. Representatives from a couple dozen organizations in the community were circled about the room to discuss with potential volunteers ways they can get involved. In the accompanying video, representatives from the following organizations answer your correspondent’s question “What kind of help are you looking for?”


Chestnut Hill Meals on Wheels
East Mt. Airy Neighbors
Food Moxie
Friends of the Wissahickon
Germantown Avenue Crisis Ministry
C.W.Henry School PTA
Hosts for Hospitals
Mt. Airy Tree Tenders/Germantown Tree Tenders
Northwest Mutual Aid Collective
Pathways to Housing
Stenton Manor
Unitarian Society of Germantown
Urban Resources Development Corp.
Welcoming Homes
Wesley Enhanced Living at Stapeley
Woodmere Art Museum
Wyck House and Garden
Yes! And...Collaborative Arts
Quintessence Theatre

Regrettably, your correspondent didn’t get a chance to speak with Whosoever Gospel Mission or Cliveden

View more photos of the volunteer event here.

View video snapshots about the organizations in the Volunteers playlist.


We build a mudhif

Mudhif building sarah and mohannad
Your correspondent joined U.S. military veterans, Iraqi refugees and other volunteers from the community to break ground on Memorial Day and start work on a traditional Iraqi structure dating back thousands of years called a “mudhif“ on the grounds of the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Roxborough, Philadelphia. More photos here. Watch a video about the first day ceremony and building start of an Iraqi mudhif.

“Al-Mudhif” is the brainchild of Seattle-based artist Sarah Kavage and Mount Airy based designer Yaroub Al-Obaidi who, after attending a lecture Kavage delivered a year ago at Moore College of Art during which she displayed a photo of a mudhif, suggested they build one! It is, perhaps, the first in the United States. The project, sponsored by the Alliance for Watershed Education of the Delaware River, is one of fifteen site-specific installations, six already completed, extending as far north as the Delaware Water Gap and as far south as Wilmington, west to Reading and east to Trenton, all within the Lenapehoking watershed, the home of the native Lenape people.

Building a mudhif, which your correspondent can attest to firsthand, is overlaying and binding together reeds into long columns. These columns are then placed in 32-inch deep, 2-foot wide holes to provide the vertical supports. They are then bent toward one another to form an arched roof. In upcoming days, mats will be woven and set in place to form a thatched roof. Air and sunlight will come through lattice panels to be constructed and attached. Adjacent to the structure, Kavage’s husband, Rob has been busy installing the structure for a large bench for seating and a view from just outside the mudhif.

On day one, we divided into two large teams- the first tasked with digging 10 large holes, 5 opposite 5 to form the length of the rectangular structure. I opted to work with volunteers assembling the columns. We used phragmites, reed grasses, harvested previously. (A non-native form of phragmites is considered invasive and it is likely a plus-side of the project was some invasive control)

From the sidelines, an older man from Iraq who went by “Kam” vividly recalled his father’s large mudhif in Nasriyah near the Euphrates River. His family would welcome guests and travelers to rest, stay, eat and drink coffee or tea in the mudhif, set apart from the main home. At that time, Kam said, people traveled distances by horse and would go from mudhif to mudhif to rest along the way.

A younger man, Hadi al-Karfawi, who left Iraq at the age of nine spoke of his strong emotional connection with the mudhif his grandfather, a tribal leader, had built . As a boy, he was tasked with preparing and serving the strong coffee to guests. He absorbed that the mudhif was community place where people would come to resolve disputes. Everyone was given a chance to speak without interruption. The disputes might be inter-tribal or among families  of one's own tribe.

As your correspondent spoke with al-Karfawi, Mohaned Al-Obaidi, the lead builder and Yaroub’s brother, was having some trouble bending the first two columns of reeds to form the arch at the entrance. Traditionally, al-Karfawi said, the reeds, of a different variety in use here, might be more moisture-filled, perhaps more freshly cut, which would make the bending easier. (The arch is not going to be the traditional rounded one; Yaroub has designed it to be more angular  so winter snow will more easily slide off and not weigh down the roof.) al-Karfawi spoke of helpers being divided into groups, just like us, with specific tasks and he demonstrated how he and others would stomp on mud mixed with hay to form the “cement” to applied inside the roof. He had brought along two of his young children and, as the project was about to get underway, they stood by with child-sized shovels at the ready.

In his opening remarks, Al-Obaidi spoke of how emotional this undertaking has been- recreating a traditional community structure from his homeland. He suspected many of us have only associated Iraq until now with war and suffering. He hopes this welcoming mudhif will bring about a better understanding of Iraq’s ancient and rich culture.

The grand opening of the mudhif is planned for June 24th and according to a Schuylkill Center blog many activities are planned. “We will activate the installation Al-Mudhif with extended programming around exchange of war experience, healing and intercultural encounters from June to October 2021.”

Your correspondent asks, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the dispute resolution aspect of a mudhif could be "activated”? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if representative native Lenape could settle ongoing claims in this mudhif with representatives of the long dominant immigrant community? Descendants of former slaves with descendants of former slaveholders? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Israeli and Palestinian representatives could forge a just and lasting peace in this mudhif? And isn’t it fitting that this peace and justice-making take place on land taken from the Lenape, now in the safekeeping of environmental non-profit, in a traditional structure of a people who themselves experienced recent devastation to their own culture- the swamp Arabs of Iraq? A structure built for community, hospitality and peace-making. Inshallah.

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More videos here

Building Al Mudhif - short version

Mudhif groundbreaking ceremony

Docent tells about Iraqi mudhifs and ancient Sumer

Schuylkill Center Director acknowledges land belonging to Lenape people at mudhif groundbreaking


Ewe lamb - just 10 minutes old! 🐑


10 minute old ewe lamb
As your correspondent was taking a break from some landscaping work at the Weavers Way Farm located at W.B. Saul Agricultural high school, Gail Koskela, a large animal science teacher at the school,l asked if I wanted to see a newborn baby ewe that had seen first light just 10 minutes ago! This was the fifth lamb born this season and Koskela said they were looking for pie-themed names for the baby since the first two lambs were born on March 14th (3/14 as in 3.14, an approximation of the constant Pi) Accordingly those two were named "Pi" and "R squared." The next two lambs were christened she "Chocolate Mousse" and "Lemon Meringue." Koskela says she may have assisted the ewe sooner than she needed to but this first time mother had been pushing for a little while and Koskela didn’t want her to be become exhausted. So as the baby's legs and head began to emerge, she held on with a little tension so the mom could push it out completely. Very shortly after birth, the baby got up on its legs. The mother started licking her clean and the two were baa-baa-ing back-and-forth as seen in the video. The breed of sheep raised at the farm is selected for their confirmation and meat traits not for their wool which, in this breed, grows very slowly. Classes in the fall typically are in charge of breeding season and the spring classes learn about lambing hands-on. But because of the COVID-19 quarantine, only a few Saul students have been physically able to work with the animals. Koskela gave a little plug for the school's 24-7 "Ewe Tube" channel where everyone can follow the sheep in action, such as it is, in the spacious new blue barn. See newborn lamb and mom and video interview here.


Dance movement therapist helps kids

Dance movement
Dancer and dance therapist Morgan Rakay defines dance movement therapy as the psychotherapeutic use of movement or integration of the mind, body and perhaps, spirit. In different contexts, it looks so different she says. When she works with children, her approach is very improvisational and she gets down on their level and responds to what's going on. She engages them in play and makes use of props, colors and music. She indulged your correspondent, a student in one of her adult dance classes through the Mount Airy Learning Tree in making a video. When I prompted her to show some movement, her inner therapist noticed that being put on the spot recalled her discomfort as a child when someone,knowing she took dance lessons, would say "Dance for us!" Watch dance teacher describer dance movement therapy and how she uses it with children.


Germantown celebrates Juneteenth freedom from slavery

Juneteenth libation
At Philadelphia's Juneteenth celebration in Germantown, Iraina Salaam performs a libation ceremony in honor of African ancestors as members of Boy Scout Troop 1719 and the Tyehimba drum group look on. Juneteenth, June 19th, is a celebration that marks the day in 1865, two and a half years after the emancipation proclamation when Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce the end of slavery. Also in the video Cerise Dash sings "Oh Freedom," a spiritual. Watch video of Germantown, Philadelphia's Juneteenth emancipation from slavery celebration featuring a libation ceremony, gospel spirituals, colored Union infantry troops and more

Click here for  photo slideshow

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Juneteenth chickenbone

Author Cheryl Woodruff-Brooks sells copies of her recent book with many photographs by noted photographer John W Mosley about the racially segregated beach between Mississippi and Missouri Avenues in Atlantic City, New Jersey.


Eye surgeon walks through cataract surgery

Eye surgeon cataract

"So typically, when patients arrive in the preoperative area, we meet and make sure that the plan is correct. And then the nurses will put a small IV in your hand through which we can administer a very, very gentle sedative. We also give you many eye drops to prevent infection and to dilate the pupil as widely as possible before we take you to the operating room.

Once in the operating room, we make sure that you're positioned comfortably on the table. There is a large microscope that goes between your face and my eyes. It's quite large and it's in between us (I take it for granted now) and so my view of your eye is quite magnified. And with the foot pedals, I'm able to focus in and out and zoom the microscope- and that's the right foot. And with the left foot, I'm able to control the irrigation, the aspiration and the fluidics of that machine that breaks up the cataract. Both feet and both hands. And my hands are hovering right above the patient's face. And then your neck has to be extended enough that you're looking through the microscope and able to see everything. The surgeon is sitting at the patient's ear. So right eye? I'm sitting by your right ear. Left eye, we switch the room around, move the pedals and sit on the other side.

We cleanse the area around the eye with antiseptics again to prevent infection. And then we put a sterile sheet over your face and open just the area for the eye that we're going to work on. We put a metal speculum, a little holder, in between the eyelids so that if you would happen to fall asleep during your surgery I'll still be able to do the work and continue on. And then we make two very small incisions into the eye. We gently open the front of the capsule of the cataract in a perfectly round fashion. And then we use a phacoemulsification hand probe which pulverizes and aspirates the debris from breaking up the cataract. So we remove the hard, nut-like aspects of the cataract. Then we use a different hand-piece to tease out the sticky bits leaving the capsule of your own tissue open, clear and intact. Then we fold the lens implant and put it into the capsule and let it unfold in place. Then it's just a matter of removing some of the gel that we had used to smooth the entry and exit of instruments in and out of the eye.

We inject a little bit of antibiotic into the eye, make sure the wound is secure, and take away the drape. And then we put a few more drops in, put a protective shield on the surface of the eye and take you to the recovery room. And within about 20 minutes you're able to get up and go.

The eye is a moving target. there is nothing at all that paralyzes or stills the human eye. So we need to just talk you through it and make sure that you are kind of playing our game to hold still and to look straight up at the light. When you're looking through the microscope, the view is so magnified that the tiniest of movements looks large which is very helpful in what we need to be doing. But also it's a problem if the patient is moving because even one millimeter is too much. There's not a lot of wiggle room within the anterior chamber of the eye. There's between two and five millimeters of depth we have to work within.

Microsurgery!"

Walking through cataract surgery video interview with an ophthamologist

Amy E. Weber, MD


Palestine Teach-In draws hundreds in Philly

From the Facebook Event Page

"Join us on June 30 for our Palestine teach-in! This event brings together an amazing group of scholars, organizers, activists, and teachers for a day of teaching and strategizing. Whether you’re looking for a basic introduction or advanced analysis, the event will be a valuable experience." Hosted by Uncle Bobbie's Coffee and Books in Germantown.

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Meanwhile  Weavers Way Co-op may have gotten around the boycott Israel issue by selling Equal Exchange Olive Oil produced by Palestinian small farmers

Palestinian farmer olive oil


Painting like Pollock, campers have fun

Paint like pollock kid abstract expressionist

"I wanted to give this class because I wanted to paint like Pollock with a group of people who want to paint like Pollock." This is how artist Kay Gering introduced her workshop students at a multi-generational cooperative camp in Ottsville, PA (ECRS) to the drip and splash technique of abstract expressionistic Jackson Pollock. Pollock pioneered the form in the 1940s and early 1950s. He was much more interested in the physical act of making art than the results on canvas, Gering explained. With dozens of colorful, acrylic house-paints donated by her contacts, Gering set her group out with cups, straws and sticks to create Pollock-like art on oversize white and black canvases and to over paint some smaller art reproductions. Your correspondent interviewed one participant, T, as she moved about the canvases, paint cup in hand. For her, the class had special significance. T recently attended the critically acclaimed stage production of the French produced "Pollock" in which her daughter starred as Pollock's ambitious artist wife, Lee Krasner. Watch campers, young and old, splash paint on large canvases in imitation of abstract expressionist artist Jackson Pollock.Paint like Jackson Pollock abstract expressionist artist

PHOTO ALBUM SLIDE SHOW HERE


TCNJ alumni day, 104 year old + the Travers 5

The college of new jersey alumni reunion coed dorm

The “Travers 5” students at Trenton State College in Ewing, New Jersey were an “intentional democratic community” of young men and women on the fifth floor of the Travers dorm in 1976-1977 and 1977-1978. They governed themselves and with the $5000 they received for cleaning the bathrooms, they re-signed from “men” and “women” to “people” they went on camping trips and held bi-weekly parties. On April 28, 2018, forty years later, some 25 of their number including your correspondent’s spouse descended upon what is now “The College of New Jersey” for Alumni day festivities on the much renovated campus and gleefully revisited the bright student painted hallways where they once lived, studied and caroused. Watch video of alumni reunion 1970s coed dorm students with their unisex bathrooms and parties.

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TCNJ hundred four years oldest alumna 85th reunion

Vera McChesney, 104 years old, graduated with a degree in early education in the first class, 1934, from the all women Trenton Normal School at its new location at Hillwood Lakes in Ewing, New Jersey. Accompanied by her nephew Sam Persi on April 28, 2018, she was honored as the most senior at alumni day celebrations at what is now The College of New Jersey. Attending her class’s 84th reunion, she bested the next most senior alum by 19 years. Her nephew recounts she acquired two graduate degrees and retired as director of library services for the Mesa public schools in Arizona. Watch video of oldest alumna by far at the Trentnon Normal (State)/ The College of New Jersey alumni day.


Career day features sound engineer, pet groomer, funeral director and more

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Career day pet groomer
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Career day sound engineer motion
 And concert sound engineer Barbara Adams wowed students when she told them she once worked with Kanye West (before he became famous). She talked about what her job is like - lots of heavy lifting and much more. And to illustrate the science of sound and hearing she disassembled a speaker. Students excitedly bunched around to see the diaphragm pulse to Michael Jackson's "Beat It."