Humanist Community in Silicon Valley
serving San Jose, Stanford, and the S. F. Peninsula since 1962
downtown San Jose

Building a Humanist Children’s Program with an IHS Grant
by Paula Rochelle and Arthur Jackson, spring 2004

The Humanist Community (HC) began an ongoing children’s program in January 2004 with meetings held in conjunction with the Humanist Forum on Sunday mornings, 11 AM to 12 noon at Mitchell Park Community Center in Palo Alto. Lois Kellerman is the curriculum developer and the principal teacher. In June, the Institute for Humanist Studies (IHS) granted the Humanist Community $6000 towards the $11,213 budget. This expanded the program to weekly classes starting July 1, 2004.

The goal of the program is to provide a place for kids to have a group experience in a Humanist setting. They are not taught Humanism, but they are taught that thinking and asking questions is OK. This is an environment free of supernatural answers, but is instead focused on human answers and how to live in a human world.


The Humanist Community (HC) began a bi-monthly children’s program in January 2004 after much planning and earlier false starts. In the 80s, HC member Peter Bishop led a monthly children’s program. In the late 90s, member Elaine Dodd created a curriculum for children but we were unable to attract children! In the fall of 2003, HC held a retreat weekend to envision and plan new activities in HC. Three HC members became so dedicated to the idea of an HC children’s program that they donated $3000 to fund a pilot project. A children’s education committee was formed, which proposed a plan to hire a teacher, rent a room, buy supplies and advertise a program to begin January 1, 2004. The HC Board of Directors approved. We had two families with children who were committed to the program, so this time we had at least a few children! Classes began January 4.

It is clear even at this early date that this program is tapping into a felt need in freethought families. Children who are used to hearing their classmates talk about God have a safe refuge to explore all the alternatives. Also, they have the chance to see that their family is not as different as they may have feared.

The Grant

Our goal is to use the IHS grant to increase the number of young people active in Humanism and to create a practical, tested, modular program for children, which can be used in various Humanist groups. Our approach addresses the need to build Humanist communities through programs that serve families and build groups that include more than lecture and discussion of ideas.

The children’s program addresses the problem that currently essentially no programs exist for freethought youth. As a result few youth are currently involved in Humanism, and family focus is not considered to be part of the plan.

Our Resources

Lois Kellerman, the current paid children’s program teacher, is an Ethical Culture Leader. She began her Ethical Culture (EC) work as Sunday School Director at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. Later she served for seven years on the American Ethical Union’s Religious Education Committee. As an EC Leader, Lois developed major educational programs and trained Leaders and teachers. She has presented at numerous National Conferences and at the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU).

We have volunteers with a wide range of experience, expertise, networks, and financial support. They include Elaine Dodd, Margie Liebert, Hiram Pierce, and Millie Davis of Palo Alto; Hilton Brown of Mountain View; Peter Bishop and Alex Havasy of Sunnyvale; Arthur Jackson of San Jose; Bill Jacobsen of Pacifica; Paula Rochelle and Ben Wade of Saratoga. Elaine Dodd organized the Sunday school in the 90s and is now the lead volunteer teacher. Peter Bishop ran the HC children’s program in the 80s and he brings music to the Sunday school now. Marge Liebert teaches art and brings creativity to the program. Other classroom volunteers include Burt Liebert, Hiram Pierce, and Justine Ma. Organizational support has come from Millie Davis, Alex Havasy, and Bill Fisher.

Others have connections to national Humanist organizations. Arthur Jackson and Paula Rochelle have both served on the AHA board and Ben Wade and Paula Rochelle are currently enrolled in the Humanist Institute. Early financial support for the program came from Ben Wade, Arthur Jackson, Bill Jacobsen and Peter Bishop. Other community members have made financial contributions as well, with a total of $7546 raised. The AHA Chapter Assembly Fund For Chapter Expansion granted the HC $1423 for advertising the children’s program in 2004. HC has local alliances with Atheists of Silicon Valley and the Pro Choice Coalition.

Other resources include our ongoing programs and the vitality of HC. We have been meeting weekly on Sunday mornings since 1989. The meetings are held in a public place, which has a room available for children. Since its incorporation in California in 1962, HC has had a community-based vision of Humanism. Seasonal celebrations occur several times a year and involve children.

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

The Humanist Community is a chartered chapter of the American Humanist Association.

For more information on this program contact Arthur Jackson, 408-923-3774.

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