Creative Lives

Thetford, Vermont, USA


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Creative Lives affirms that each child is innately good, with a unique potential for learning, contribution, and fulfillment. It is our mission and vision to help young people thrive, develop their character and reach this potential as adults -- by attending to the development of their minds, the health of their bodies and environment, and nurturing their inner lives and creativity.

What We Do

The Challenges
Children's educational needs and potential today exist in the midst of much social strife, serious environmental challenges, and confusion about educational priorities.

We are experiencing an epidemic of mental health challenges and substance abuse among both child and adult populations and the immediate effects of climate change and pollutants on regional ecosystems. Fire drills are now accompanied by shelter-in-place or emergency escape drills. The success of schools and teachers is measured not by the overall well-being of students, their enthusiasm to learn, and their growing, applied understanding, but by the outcomes of standardized tests and graded benchmarks.

While it is heartening to witness that some children are developing in confidence, knowledge, creativity, and health, millions of children struggle with significant aspects of their development. Some thrive academically but lack confidence in their innate value. Some lack good nutrition or spend hours each day in front of screens. Some are physically strong but struggle with focus and attention in school. Others experience trauma through lack of appropriate care and resources.

As children's needs intensify, even the most experienced of teachers and parents among my colleagues and friends share frustration and confusion at how to proceed. Our problems are systemic and point to the need for cohesive, systemic solutions. They present an opportunity for reorientation, transformation, and growth.

Creative Solutions
Ellen Tadd's Framework for Wise Education effectively addresses the root causes of imbalances in childhood development and corresponding imbalances in our culture and our schools. Tadd's understandings of human development constitute a powerful, whole-systems orientation that supports the learning and well-being of educators, caregivers, and the young people they serve -- across all aspects of their lives. Learn More

A Framework for Wise Education is defined by criteria we believe are essential to addressing our current challenges and supporting long-term, positive outcomes for children and adults. Tadd's Framework is:

Holistic and systemic, complete in addressing strength of mind, inner balance, health, and positive relationships -- in tandem. Childhood development is considered within the context of building healthy communities and restoring the natural world.

Universal and timeless, as Framework principles, tools and strategies apply to all individuals and situations -- and always will.

Generative and integrative, allowing for innovation and the emergence of new, creative applications. We can use this framework to:

--Build on existing good practice

--Improve or discontinue ineffective or harmful strategies, tools, or philosophies

--Fine-tune desired outcomes for individual children

--Support efficient, sustainable use of time, energy, and resources

--Facilitate shared vision, collective action, and positive, systemic change.

Where we are going, where we've been:

We share Tadd's Framework with adults, schools, parenting communities, and agencies who work on behalf of childhood and family wellbeing. Our training opportunities are affordable, with ongoing supports for implementation and progressive opportunities to deepen practice in the field.

In the process of developing our work, we have taken a lab-site approach to offering afterschool, summer programs, and in-school residencies. In 2019. Director Maureen Burford received the Lynne Von Trapp Award for excellence in childcare from the Vermont Children's Trust Foundation.


88% of regular attendees in our afterschool programs are able to use Framework-based tools and strategies to improve their focus skills (defined as: understanding what focus means, appreciating the benefits of focus, able to accept adult assistance to gain better focus, electing to work work with focus strategies on their own, for example). With the diagnosis of " ADD/ADHD" so prevalent in young children, this is significant.

Creative Lives partners with the Hartford Recreation Department to support Summer "Ventures" Camp, serving 80 students per week for eight weeks of programming.

CLASP has been recognized in the Vermont Step Ahead Recognition System for excellence in childcare.

My child has simply blossomed since attending CLASP!"
-- M. Bissette, CLASP parent

Character Education
We have taught more than 350 children Framework-based character education, including contemplative practices and life skills in our classes and residencies at local schools and conferences and in our afterschool lab. We are working on a k-8th grade approach to character development that incorporates meditation, theater, and other reflective arts.

Every child in our school should be learning these skills!
-- W. Thompson, 3rd grade educator, Norwich, VT

Workshops and Courses for Educators
Creative Lives has offered programs in the Upper Valley of Vermont and New England introducing A Framework for Wise Education to more than 325 teachers, and community leaders.

This is a new way of thinking about how everyone learns that really makes sense.
-- A. Super, CLASP staff member

Adventures in Teaching and Parenting
In 2016 we introduced "Adventures in Parenting: Addressing Root Causes of ADD/ADHD with our partner, The Family Place, in Norwich, Vermont.

I now meditate every morning using (a Framework) technique and have found it to be immensely helpful in setting me up for my day...My son now utilizes tools/techniques for getting focused before reading (where he has struggled in the past) which allows him the ability to get into a "zone" where he is less distracted and able to stay focused for longer periods of time. In addition, I have found him to be more disciplined in some of his daily habits (as have I), requiring less requests/nagging from me to get things done...the possible avenues this work could take are truly endless.
-- C. Nolan, parenting course partitipcant


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Maureen B.


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Andra D.

Associate Dir of Curriculum and Program Research