the sally sisson blog


October 5, 2019

Back-To-School: Creative Content Writing & Curriculum Development

Writing, editing and wrangling content

Although I’ve been writing content and curriculum for TogetherCounts.com over the past seven years, this is the first time I’ve been responsible for the entire Schools section of the website. During the spring and summer of 2018, I developed the content and curriculum for all four levels — Pre-K, Grades K–2, Grades 3–5, and Grades 6–8 — plus training modules for the Educator Support Center, at-home activity guides and lesson plans to be used in conjunction with FDA (Federal Food and Drug Administration) charts and guidelines.

Like many website writing and wrangling projects, this involved hundreds of manuscript pages of text, along with nearly as many images, illustrations and video clips. When the final web pages, PDFs and slides were all laid out and uploaded by the web developer, I decided to tally them up. The total: 676 pages of content!

  • Curriculum Units: 12
  • Lesson Plans: 48
  • Pages of PDFs: 440
  • PowerPoint Slides: 236
  • Total pages of content: 676

The new web content went live in September 2018 and is being used again this year in U.S. schools nationwide and by TogetherCounts.com partners including the Girl Scouts and 4-H, America’s largest youth development and youth mentoring organization. The free content is accessible to teachers, parents and after-school volunteers as well.

Check it out here at https://togethercounts.com/educator-support-center/

Part 1: The Creative Process

The Challenge: Develop a new conceptual framework and lesson plans to reflect the newly expanded approach to Health & Wellness recommended by the CDC and ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development). Customize content for different grade bands (Pre-K through grade 8) for use by teachers in U.S. public and private schools nationwide.

The Solution: I worked side-by-side (virtually, that is) with design colleague Doug Eymer of EYMER Brand Laboratories to toss ideas back and forth. (Conceptual work doesn’t happen in a vacuum!) I knew he was the right guy to add personality to the visuals for maximum kid-appeal — while driving home the key teaching points in effective ways that would stick.

The New Graphic Toolset: Here’s the final result, below. Called the “Wellness Wheel,” this graphic laid the foundation for the curriculum units and all of the content for the Pre-K through Grade 5 lesson plans and teaching guides. Printable worksheets, also designed by EYMER (see samples below), incorporated this and complementary graphics to help tie all of the separate units into a cohesive whole.


Part Two: Collaborating with teacher reviewers, a curriculum writer, website developer and more…. [to follow]

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July 16, 2018

Celebrating Freedom of the Press: Finland News Museum

News Museum Helsinki Finland

En route to the Design Museum during a visit to Helsinki last fall, I spied a sign on a side street for something called the Päivälehti News Museum. Intrigued, I took a detour and walked inside for a quick visit. I stayed for over an hour, admiring the old-school machinery and interactive displays packed into the two small floors. Along with honoring press freedom and the profession of journalism, the museum aims “to promote the ability to interpret the media and particularly, to encourage children and adolescents to read.”

Freedom of Speech and Censorship Global Map Helsinki

Freedom of Speech and Censorship: A global perspective

Permanent exhibits here include an interactive world map that lets you follow global news feeds in real time and compare freedom of speech in different countries.

Press Freedom: Finland takes on Trump and Putin

Today’s news headlines brought this small museum back to mind. In case you missed it, the editor-in-chief of Helsinki’s largest newspaper shared a press release on Twitter, along with photos of some of the billboards (nearly 300 in total) lining the route from the airport to the site of the Trump-Putin summit. Other signs with relevant news headlines were strategically placed at bus stops, train stations and airports.

Kaius Niemi, editor-in-chief of Helsingin Sanomat, also sits on the Executive Board of the International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and journalists established in 1950 to promote press freedom.

“This is a statement on behalf of critical and high-quality journalism,” Niemi said in the release. “As we welcome the presidents to the summit in Finland, we want to remind them of the importance of free press.”

The release notes that Finland is rated fourth in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index, far ahead of the U.S.’s 45th-place finish. Russia was listed by the organization as No. 148 out of 180.

As CNN reports, “The violent anti-press rhetoric from the highest level of the US government has been coupled with an increase in the number of press freedom violations at the local level as journalists run the risk of arrest for covering protests or simply attempting to ask public officials questions.”

Ode to Print and the Newspaper

Downstairs, I was the only person in the room among the printing press machinery and assorted newsroom relics. With no one watching, I ran my fingers along the Linotype at an old workstation and snapped some pictures of the original Heidelberg.

I studied Communications and Journalism as an undergraduate from 1979 to 1983 and have experienced the dramatic changes in technology first-hand. Like all my colleagues, I was prepared to train and retrain to keep up to speed with digital innovations that revolutionized the fields of publishing and media. But nothing prepared me for the recent attacks on the press. It never occurred to me that we had anything to worry about in America. Freedom of the press and censorship were topics studied in my Soviet politics classes, not U.S. history.

My, how times have changed.

 

 

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March 9, 2018

Wear Equality: Design of the Times

Last fall, on a guided walking tour of the Helsinki Design District, I learned a fun fact in the Marimekko flagship store. The Tasaralta, their iconic striped shirt (pictured above), is more than just a wardrobe staple. It’s also a bold statement piece.

Unlike the stripes on, say, the classic Breton or L.L. Bean sailor shirt, these ones are equally spaced. The even stripes symbolize equality—between genders and people of different ages, shapes and sizes. “Even stripes for equality” is the tagline.

This was news to me. I’ve been a fan of the textile brand for decades (even making curtains out of Marimekko sheets to match my Marimekko bedspread in my first college dorm room). But I guess I’d never given the stripes on their pillows and T-shirts a second thought.

Purposeful design is a hallmark of the company. “Fairness to everyone and everything” is one of their company values. The vision from the start was to create functional, everyday, often unisex (or anonymous) clothing that would suit anyone and everyone, “empowering people to be true to who they are.”

Last year the company teamed up with Equality Now, an organization dedicated to protecting the human rights of women and girls around the world. As part of a six-week campaign, Marimekko stores in North America and online donated $10 USD to the charity for each Tasaraita “even stripe” garment sold. Read more here:

WWD: Marimekko Partners With Equality Now for Partnership to Encourage Women’s Empowerment

Feminist icon, ahead of her time

Later that day I lingered in the Design Museum and learned more of the backstory. Finnish textile designer Armi Ratia and her husband Viljo founded Marimekko in 1951 after buying the Printex fabric company. These were drab post-war times and their aim was to crank things up with bold, colorful patterns and create inventive new designs. In the first decade Marimekko built up a solid line of clothing and home accessories, along with a loyal Scandi following.

It wasn’t until 1960 that the company really made a name for itself worldwide. That’s when Jackie Kennedy bought seven of their dresses in a single shopping spree, later showing them off on the campaign trail. Pictures of the First Lady in her crisp, modern frocks soon made the fashion news and, most famously, the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine. The fashions were seen as comfortable and approachable, everyday designs for everyday life.

The late sixties brought bolder designs and political statements. 1968 saw the launch of the Equal Rights Amendment campaign in the U.S., a strike for equal pay by 850 women machinists at the Dagenham Ford factory in the U.K., and the election of Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman to sit on the U.S. House of Representatives. Looking back now, the debut of the Tasaraita even-striped T-shirt that year makes perfect sense.

 

“I don’t sell clothes, I sell a way of living. They are designs, not fashions. I sell ideas, not dresses.”

– Armi Ratia, textile artist and founder of Marimekko, 1963

It wasn’t until decades later that Armi gained the recognition she deserved as Finland’s foremost female entrepreneur—and one of the world’s most famous designers.

“At Marimekko, Armi Ratia was a textile artist, managing director, creative director, wizard of words, publicity guru, and wellspring of inspiration. She had an incredible ability to decipher the mood of the times and sense future trends. She also had a genius for recognizing talent and finding ways to realize even the wildest, most imaginative ideas. 

“Even today, Marimekko’s success owes much to Armi’s ideas. She was a trailblazer who made Marimekko a way of life, an attitude, a phenomenon embracing the everyday and the extraordinary.”

– marimekko.com 

Another bold icon to celebrate on International Women’s Day, I’d say.

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