Blogging My Gratitude… Top Ten!

Lots of my thankfulness this week has been for our school.  So here we go… top 10 reasons I am grateful for Roots!

10.   I love that now as I read through my favorite natural play blogs                and books that I have this amazing group of children with whom            to go mess around with the ideas!

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  1. I am grateful for taking the time either by myself or with children to stack blocks back on the shelf just so!  Really, I love cleaning up.   (I should write a blog post about our clean up process sometime!)

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  1. I am grateful that becoming co-faciliator with Miguel has been full of ease and trust and that because of the larger ALC Mosaic network we are able to focus the majority of our time on children.

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  1. I am grateful for kids pushing wooden trucks full of gnomes around the room! I love the opportunity to design, extend and document the use of open ended and beautiful playscapes.   Seeing when and how the kids choose to engage in these spaces is total joy.

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  1. I am grateful for the families that make our little school a community. I love that we get to have siblings around now and then and parents often.  And in their wisdom I think that the kids pick up on the vibes of community and co-creation even when families are not here during the day. leaf
  1. I am grateful for playing records at circle time!   When I taught kindergarten years ago I dreamed of focusing totally on building community, social-emotional growth and honoring play.  Somehow the record player and the Raffi, Ella Jenkins and Mister Roger’s vinyl I have collected over the years represent this circling back to the best parts of progressive early childhood from the 70’s and early 80’s. My older teacher friends used to tell me that I seemed from another time. It’s pretty awesome now to take the wonderful traditions we have for early childhood education and match it with the social possibilities and resources available in 2014.

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  1. I am grateful for the opportunity to hear about, support and document kid’s ideas unfolding. Their plans are sometimes pre-meditated: they come to school knowing what their plan is and what materials they may need or they meet with me and name an idea and we make a plan together. I like supporting the fruition of their intentions. More often they are very spontaneous and in sync with the moment. Their ideas, the planning and the engagement of them happen fast! They are doers! I am grateful for both kinds of intentionality and everything in between.

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  1. This is my dream work. This is literally the work I envisioned for myself come alive around me this fall. I am grateful that I get to engage in the daily living of an early childhood natural, play based community.   Even as my wellness in the first trimmest of pregnancy has been a challenge the last two months, I have found such joy and ease in the school day. This is a peaceful place where I am happy! I love being busy all day with the kids.  And I love that there is space for motherhood here, too.  Spaceto sit and watch the play scenes while I rest. And this just becomes part of our natural rhythm, too. I noticed that I had alot more opportunities to sit and read with various kids in the last few weeks.  As I sat down to take a break, someone would often come over to join me with a book. I love that this work flows with life.

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2.    I am grateful for children finding new delight in the sandbox after            the rain or digging trenches from the rain barrel. I love that                 .        elements of the natural world like rain and shade and shelter            .      shape our days and our play.

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  1. I am grateful for seeing the children growing into a community that trusts and supports each other. I had some anxiety early in the year as I wondered how kids would integrate into a community. Now in November I feel a great trust in the children and in my ability to support them. I am grateful for all I have learned from them about being together in these first months of school. I see them weaving in and out of play groupings, engaging as a whole group often and workingthrough challenges. I am looking forward to how we will continue to grow and expand as we have a few more children join.

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Revising My Stick Play Story

Sticks make awesome toys!  They are abundant- you can always replace a broken one or a find one to share with a friend.  They provide the ultimate open-ended play experience as they transform from a walking cane into a wand and very often, yes, into a sword.  It’s the sword part that has sometimes given me trouble.  It’s the sword part that I think I worked at revising a little further this week.

It was Thursday that I experienced a magical stick-as-sword moment at school.  Six boys, ages 3 through 8, were playing in the field each with a stick and almost all with a play silk turned cape.   I had been observing their stick game from a distance and was happy to witness the way this particular game with stick swords seemed safe and inclusive.  I saw the movement of the boys to go into the woods and made my way to follow their transition.  Before I could catch up at all, what I saw was this running rainbow up our hill down the path at the edge of the woods and back out into the field again.  With the fallen-leaf-trees and the bright silks flowing behind the boys, I could see their movement and safe return to the field.  I was rather transfixed by this image of beauty, peace and positive energy of boys with sticks!

I can remember another moment a couple of years ago in our unschool co-op, when I was watching another group of boys play with sticks in a beautiful wooded park.  My energy was very different.  I was on edge every moment, worried that these sticks that seemed malevolent were going to hurt someone.  Probably they did, too.   I remember being full of question and concern at the time, wanting limits, but unsure how or which ones to put in place.

We have had a little share of stick challenge at Roots this year, too, but I am grateful for the opportunity to really process and find limits that feel natural and supportive of stick play.  One of the simple shifts has just been around space.  Stick-as-sword play happens out in the field where their is room for everyone.    Also, the kids find, make or alter stick-swords to suit their size and the purpose of playing- sticks the length of their arm and rounded rather than pointy.

It’s really the shift in myself, though, that makes the stick play feel different.  I try really hard not to linger on fear of someone getting hurt.   If I can keep my head and heart in this trusting place, most of the shift is already happening around me just in my change in perspective.   Then when something isn’t feeling right or safe, I follow my intuition on supporting kids with a limit that creates maximum freedom and care for all of us.

The great thing I am noticing is that this gets easier and easier!  As I replace my mind’s stick-worry story with images like the one of the boys’ running rainbow of stick play through the woods, I reset my narrative around stick play.  This is really why I like to write for myself or for you! these little stories from my school experience.  I think that the stories I tell myself, that we tell ourselves, about children, ourselves, play, sticks, safety are part of how we create our world.

I think that as I revise the stories I live by I revise my life.   Katherine Bomer says it well in Writing a Life, “Revision is hope… Revision is a second, third, fourth even a twentieth chance.  We can revise our life… We can revise the way we operate in the world.  Think about revision in the largest sense, of imagining things as they could be otherwise, as Maxine Greene says, Revision is forgiveness.”

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The Lizard Agreements

For the last few weeks lizards have been on the mind and hands at Roots.

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Discovering where lizards live. Searching for lizards. Catching lizards. Feeding lizards. Measuring lizards. Composing lizard songs. Comparing lizards. Making lizard habitats. Drawing lizards. Reading about lizards. All things lizard.

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This included having some big feelings about lizards and friends.   Kids had a variety of ways of going about caring for lizards. Some of them practiced their ideas about lizard care as they caught and observed lizards with great compassion. Some voiced concerns about lizards to others, “No more catching lizards!” “Let the lizards go!” And others just enjoyed the interactions with the lizards.  From talking with and listening to kids I gathered that there were a range of feelings from passionate to worried to relaxed all in connection to the lizard experiences.

In our circle meeting on Friday we used a talking stick to give everyone opportunity to share what she thought or felt about catching lizards at school.   Kids shared a range of ideas from saying that they really like catching lizards, that they catch lizards at home with their families, that in other contexts there had been rules about not catching lizards and that they had seen a hurt or dead lizard at school.

I shared a little about my observations and said that caring for the lizards and enjoying the lizards seem important to a lot of people. Then we passed the stick again so that everyone could share their ideas on how we can be care for and enjoy the lizards.

We came up with the following agreements to try out:

  • Let lizards go at the end of the school day. (And be sure to check the box very carefully.)
  • Try to find lizard food (long discussion here about the appropriateness of flies as lizard food) for any lizards being observed in our habitat.
  • If a lizard wants to sit on your hand that is good. (They decided not to hold a lizard for prolonged times by its belly and to not hold by tails at all.)
  • Let lizards go outside (as opposed to in the classroom).

Kids did lots of thinking and creating in their lizard explorations that align with various learning standards.  I am pretty excited about their self-selected lizard projects in measurement, writing non fiction texts,  understanding the needs of living creatures, ethics and plenty more.   What compels me to write this though, is the beauty of this time as such an integrated experience, where interest in and learning about science and more  is deeply connected to our minds and bodies as emotional, social and nature-connected beings.    All of this “academic” work is driven by and totally interconnected to the mind and body’s emotional experiences with our families, with peers, with facilitators, with the natural world and with ourselves.