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Transforming Cultures

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A dynamic yet simple philosophy with applications that will transform your personal life and your professional culture.

“Wow! The powerful words and beautiful images brought tears to my eyes. For anyone who has ever felt oppressed, suppressed, or silenced, the important message to be your authentic-self, will leave you touched, moved, and inspired. This is a must-read for all ages!”   —   Pam Garramone   , MEd, positive psychology speaker, life coach, and founder of Thrive Now Boston

“Wow! The powerful words and beautiful images brought tears to my eyes. For anyone who has ever felt oppressed, suppressed, or silenced, the important message to be your authentic-self, will leave you touched, moved, and inspired. This is a must-read for all ages!”

Pam Garramone, MEd, positive psychology speaker, life coach, and founder of Thrive Now Boston

Beyond Us is illustrated by high school student, Rin Rezendes. Rin modeled vulnerability and the power of passion-based learning by illustrating his own story. What could be more beautiful? Beyond Us opens the door to difficult discussions through the lens of empathy and vulnerability.

Beyond US
CURRICULUM INTEGRATION IDEAS

Looking for ways to incorporate Beyond Us into your curriculum? Click on this text to read the full article from Aaron Polansky on the DBC Blog.

  • Pick an illustration from the book and ask your students to write a short story based upon the illustration

  • In the story, the daughter was able to support the artist because she was aware of his passion for graphic design. Encourage your students to interview several students they don’t know and ask what they are passionate about. As a follow-up, ask your students to establish a mechanism for sharing their passion with others.

  • Use this book as an introduction to the importance of finding your strengths and passions. Cancel final exams and use the last week of school to allow your students to teach others or work on passion projects. For more information on how to make this happen, contact Brian McCann on Twitter at @casehighprinc.

  • Use Beyond Us to kick off a week of Random Acts of Kindness. Reach out to Tim Fauth (@tjfauth) of DoKindInc.com to see if your school can earn a financial reward for your efforts.

  • Choose the father, the daughter, the artist, or a reader and write a thank you note to one of the characters using the contents of the story as your guide. Make up additional details to add a creative structure to the story. Any of the characters can show appreciation for the other.

  • Recognize and illustrate the circle of giving that exists within the story.

  • Choose one of the characters from the book and write a story about the positive impact the book has had on you. Site historical examples of individuals who have overcome a struggle to support your narrative.

  • Have a discussion about our differences and how they make us unique.

  • Act out the story as a readers’ theatre.

  • Create an animated short film of the story.

  • Each of the characters identified in the narrative in the book have shared a true story. Write a story about a struggle you have faced and how others have helped (or could help you) to overcome this struggle.

  • Write a thank you note to someone who has positively impacted your life. Let them know about the difference he/she has made.

  • Consider what would have happened if the father never talked to his daughter; if the daughter never gifted the markers; or if Rin never illustrated the book. Identify a list of 10 little things that can make a big difference in your school. Complete these 10 actions over the course of a week. Write about the experience and the impact it had on you and on others.

Dr. Seuss meets Tony Robbins in Dolphins in Trees, A Children’s Book with Implications for All of Us. Growth mindset, self-efficacy, empathy, and the power of connection are all highlighted in this instant classic. Doplhins in Trees has been highlighted at conferences nationwide. Dizzy the Dolphin meets Mindful the Monkey after an unlikely chain of events. Lives are transformed as a friendship evolves in a masterpiece that will touch your heart in ways that children's books rarely do.

Dr. Seuss meets Tony Robbins in Dolphins in Trees, A Children’s Book with Implications for All of Us. Growth mindset, self-efficacy, empathy, and the power of connection are all highlighted in this instant classic. Doplhins in Trees has been highlighted at conferences nationwide. Dizzy the Dolphin meets Mindful the Monkey after an unlikely chain of events. Lives are transformed as a friendship evolves in a masterpiece that will touch your heart in ways that children's books rarely do.

DOLPHINS IN TREES
CURRICULUM INTEGRATION IDEAS

Looking for ways to incorporate Dolphins in Trees into your curriculum? Click on this text to read the full article from Alicia Ray of DBC Publishing.

  • Choose a character from the story and rewrite the story from their point-of-view.

  • Pretend you are one of the animals who did not help Mindful. What would you have done differently?

  • Tell about a time that you lost something. Did someone else help you find it? How did that make you feel?

  • Create a storyboard sequencing the events in the story.

  • Use Dolphins in Trees to kick off a week of Random Acts of Kindness.

  • Have a discussion about differences and how those make us unique.

  • Pretend you are a member of Mindful’s monkey family. Write a letter of thanks to Dizzy the Dolphin. Then write a letter to someone who has been helpful to you in real life.

  • Act out the story as a readers’ theatre.

  • The monkey’s name is Mindful; what does it mean to be mindful? Have a discussion sharing ways to maintain mindfulness in school.

  • Dizzy takes a risk by coming out of the water to help Mindful. What risks have you taken and what were the results? Did you fall from the tree, or did you use your echolocation to find what you were looking for?

TESTIMONIALS

Aaron Polansky’s DOLPHINS IN TREES is a beautiful metaphor for educators. We not only need to be mindful to help others — in turn, we may elevate their thinking. One sentence (“We miss all of the chances that we never take.”) perfectly challenges us to be role models for both our peers and students. Don’t let the guise of children’s literature fool you: DOLPHINS IN TREES has the power to recalibrate your mission as an educator. 

Simple. Beautiful. Profound. 

Brian McCann
2018 NASSP Digital Principal of the Year


Aaron’s exudes enthusiasm and compassion for others in his life and it comes through in the pages of his book Dolphins in Trees.  With underlying themes of family, helping others, and taking risks, Aaron brings to us a heartfelt story that resonates with all ages.  His work, Dolphins in Trees, effectively illustrates the positive impact one person can make on another through selflessness and connection.  Similarly, as an educational leader, Aaron puts his students first, learns their stories, and celebrates their successes; but most importantly every day he models the impact of using simple words of “Are you okay?”  Three simple words, that can change a course of a life.

Dr. Maureen Cohen
Thought Leader and 2012 NASSP National Finalist Assistant Principal of the Year


This clever story is fun, heartwarming and a reminder that there is always something we can do for others.  An unlikely encounter leads to the awareness that everyone has value and purpose in life.  This book encourages children to want to do even more for others and give everyone a chance.  It is true, kindness is contagious.

Dr. Judith Warden
CEO, Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence