It’s a new school year. Filled with possibility, new relationships, and sweet growth for both the children and all the connected adults in their lives.
“Stand aside for a while and leave room for learning, observe carefully what children do, and then if you have understood well, perhaps teaching will be different from before.” Loris Malaguzzi
When children learn from their heart and soul the importance of protecting and honoring the earth (even cuty kids), when they learn to wonder, think, imagine, and be curious of the world around them at a young age, when they experience the connection of all living things, they develop the empathy and awareness to make a difference. To be kind. To create solutions. To find metaphors.
And this is why we engage so deeply in the Monarch rescue effort. It is more than science.
It’s making ripples.
“I wonder if caterpillars play with their friends?” Olivia D., Kindergarten
“I wonder, how did they take such big bites (of the Milkweed leaf) with a tiny tiny mouth?” Lucy, PreK
After the caterpillar falls, because the cage is accidentally bumped, the caterpillar curls up. The PreK3 group gasps because they think it’s hurt.
Suddenly it stretches out on the leaf and starts moving.
“It’s not curled! It’s happy now!” Alonzo, PreK3
“Actually I see (the caterpillars) are the same. Same stripes.” Felix, PreK3
In these images Laurel communicates all her knowledge and wonder and understandings to me by tapping, and pointing, and expressing non-verbally. By “visually listening” I learned how enthralled and connected she is.
“I see they have black and white feet.” Lucy, PreK
“I see they have antenna.” William, PreK
“I see 4 antennae.” Lan, PreK
One Monday, when I arrived at school, I found that 3 of the caterpillars had escaped the cage. Two were found, but one disappeared. I told Mr. Moore the custodian about the missing critter, and hoped when he swept, he would find our missing caterpillar. I crawled under every table and chair. Eventually, I cam to the conclusion that the cat had either crawled away or had been vacuumed up by accident.
5 days later, Alexandra says, “Ms. McLean, I found something in the pony palace.” This is a play house about 25 feet from where the caterpillar tent is.
“What did you find?”, I asked.
I gasped. “Is it alive?”, I asked her.
“I think so.” she replied.
I put that caterpillar on a milkweed and low and behold, after 5 days of no food, it began munching away! It has since turned into a beautiful female butterfly. What a magical story!
“I wonder why it hangs upside down.” Nergu, PreK
Transformation of the caterpillar into the chrysalis is a rare thing to witness. This year, children, parents, and staff had the opportunity to watch this four times! It is such a grand moment of wonder and hope. For if this little creature can make such a spectacular transformation, surely we can too.
“I wonder how does it (the chrysalis) stick up there?” Will C., PreK
Here’s a brief video of the end part of the transformation. It is aptly called, the pupa dance.
Engaging in small groups with tiny miraculous creatures offers deep moments of observing, thinking, wondering, expressing, and caring. In these small moments were opportunities to focus on not only caring for the earth, but each other too. Listening while others spoke, engaging in kind language, sharing materials, and collaborating. These are not the small things, but the big things. The ripple makers, to spread goodness.
Here’s a wonderful link A Harvard Psycholgist shares 5 ways to raise them to be Kind
“I wonder, is there a mommy and daddy?” Josephine, PreK
Do not train children to learning by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each. – Plato
When one of the PreK3 children became frightened by the butterfly, the effect was catching. Soon I had four screaming 3 year olds. I quickly grabbed two Kindergarten children, Dale and Olivia, who were on their way to recess, and asked them if they would come in and teach the 3 year olds there was nothing scary, while I took the very frightened little one out to get a drink of water and calm down. The two stayed for a whole hour, even facilitating and helping the younger children make a great big butterfly mural. I really couldn’t have done it without them. When I thanked Dale and Olivia for giving up their recess time to help me out, Olivia looked at me and said, “No, thank YOU Ms. McLean for inviting us.” I almost cried.
“I think caterpillars have different brains.” Gilly, PreK
“Hey butterfly, look at this picture. She cute, right?” Ryan, PreK3
Themes and discussions of freedom emerged, as the children vacillated between wanting to name and keep the butterflies and also wanted to let it go. It also allows children to think about their selves. Wanting to be totally free, but being a child and also wanted someone there, when they are afraid. Isn’t that what we all want?
“The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves.”
Paulo Freire, We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change
My deepest wish is that I can be an instrument in supporting your child/children to become themselves. Beautiful kind compassionate loving selves.
Here’s to a year of making lots of ripples, and butterfly flights.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Mr. Rogers
I saw this quote after the Newtown tragedy and now once again I see it today after the Boston Marathon tragedy.
It is the quote that brings sanity, humanity and a lens by which to feel both grief-stricken and heart-warmed.
The Common Core should have this listed as a standard:
Helper; (PreK-12) demonstrates, recognizes and understands helper qualities, ie empathic, risk-taking, creative, innovative, persistent, thoughtful, and kind.
There is no section in the common core for this. No room at all.
Why? It is not measurable in a data driven way.
Yet, what would you define as core or even common within the scope of being a successful, balanced and happy human being?
What are the qualities by which you measure a community and it’s health?
Being a “helper” should be core to everything in education: language arts, the sciences, mathematics, athletics and the visual and performing arts.
It is core at SWS.
It is core to me.
In the studio, the Kindergarteners finished their Stone Cairn projects, which is just a part of the greater concept of “Construction” that has permeated the year.
The project had some beautiful and meaningful surprises. Even more meaningful today. While I posted earlier about the project (It is impossible work and therefor we must do it.), here’s a brief recap and the powerful directions it took:
When the children had completed the construction of the clay cairn, when it had been fired and painted, the project was not done.
There was no visible meaning or intent being transmitted.
What I didn’t want to do, was send home a colorful rock sculpture that children might not explain. That parents would see as colorful glob and not a communication of values.
So, I decided to ask the children to replicate their Cairn in 2d:
This turned out to be way more challenging then imagined, so to give perspective, I gave the kids some time and opportunity to understand and embody height width and depth:
This made the process of sketching a 3d object on a 2d surface more interesting and purposeful. You can see all the color samples Electra tries to truly recreate her ceramic cairn on paper.
The next step became more complex.
Once their 2 dimensional stone cairn was cut out, they were asked
“Where do you imagine your stone Cairn is? What does it represent?
Is it to mark a favorite place? Where is that place? What is it?
Is it to mark a path? Where?
Is it to remember someone who has died? Who is that person? What can you tell me about that person?
Is it to bring good luck or health to someone? Who?
I asked them to look at the documentation, to look at all the different connections. I just sat back and watched as they discussed parts of the project they had already done as well as looking at how some of their peers had preceded to the next part of the project. Often they asked me to help read aloud parts. Mostly, they interacted with the documentation as a working breathing element without me. It was theirs.
They were introduced to using pen and ink, and asked (after experimentation), to create the setting or images that would represent the meaning of their stone Cairn. My intention was to keep this process very slow. The act of stopping to reload the pen with ink gives one space to reflect and envision as they work.
To create an illusion of depth, bottle caps were used. Another design challenge, as the caps had to support the drawing and at the same time remain hidden. (Will, above and below)
The writing portion was an illuminating journey. And the children’s intent, their words with their images and sculpture stone cairns became an entrance into their individual thoughts. Thoughts that were poetic, charming and even even sad. Thoughts that often stay hidden. Thoughts to be shared now, in the context of this project.
Sometimes the sweetness of marking the pizza place or marking a path to the playground reminded me of the “special” places of childhood. Wesley’s path was the highway to his family in Ohio.
Can you see how just the object was just not enough to process, experience, learn and understand? It informed not only each child, but their friends, family and their teachers. It gives context. It gives connection.
This representation by Mikal reminded me of the sanctitude of the home, even for a young child. With all the running around and dreams of Disneyland, it turns out, there really is no place like home.
Many many children revealed memories of pets and relatives who had died. It is a remarkable testimony to the depth of young children. They created moving memorials.
My grandma loves me. She gave me things. She gave me songs. -Mira C.
Conner spent almost 20 minutes writing the intent and meaning of his stone cairn. When I helped transcribe his written manuscript I was struck by the complexities of random occurances and sadness that children must cross throughout their lives. I was honored that he felt in a safe place to express and share and mark this memory.
My great great grandma, you make me happy. My great great grandma, she had to ride in a wheel chair. -Colleen
While family and pet death are traumatic, the remembrances that some children chose to express possess gratitude and life affirming sentiments. Through creating, connecting and relationship in the studio and classrooms at SWS, something pivotal is being taught and understood.
I could go through this project and list common core standards and DC standards in language arts, writing, math, science, art, art history, history and science. Today I would like to recognize the missing common core standard, the one inherent every day, the “Helper.”
They are everywhere in SWS, from the office to the classroom, to the studio, to the custodians, the parents, grandparents, neighbors…all around, in the most unexpected ways are “Helpers.” Most important of all, are the “Helpers in training,” the 4-7 year old children who spontaneously take a risk and demonstrate, recognize and understand helper qualities.
It is the same community that reognizes the opposite in times of conflict, and comes together to teach, nurture, model and support the “Helper” core qualities when they are most needed.
My Grandpa lived a long long time ago.
He died before I was born
but my mom told me it will be alright. -Remiel
It will be alright.
My sister-in-law ran in the Boston Marathon yesterday. Her two children (K and 2nd grade) and husband were spectators. Time was suspended as we awaited word about the four of them. I am reprinting what she sent out today.
We were in Boston yesterday. Elissa G and I were running the marathon and were a half mile from the explosion when they closed the race. We just wandered off about 1,000 yards before finishing….It was truly a surreal scene and a nightmare of panic — so many people furiously texting and calling and unable to get through to the ones they love. And in the midst of this, there were so many moments of kindness. My favorite: Elissa was freezing cold and queezy and I stopped a couple and asked if we could use their phone, frantically trying to find our family. He gave Elissa his brand new bright red Red Sox jacket to get warm. About 20 minutes later when she tried to return it, he said no “you need it more than I do. Do me a favor, wear it to a Phillies game, once.” Elissa burst into tears and we say Go Red Sox! So many Beautiful Bostonians reached out to help and comfort.
We are so blessed and grateful to be safe and our hearts are aching for those not so lucky.
Thanks for all the love!
“You will always find people who are helping.”
We have a lot of work to do.
But it will be alright.