“Children are miracles. Believing that every child is a miracle can transform the way we design for children’s care. When we invite a miracle into our lives, we prepare ourselves and the environment around us. We may set out flowers or special offerings. We may cleanse ourselves, the space, or our thoughts of everything but the love inside us. We make it our job to create, with reverence and gratitude, a space that is worthy of a miracle!” – Anita Rui Olds (in Designs for Living and Learning)
Early childhood educators are known for their ability to make gold out of someone else’s recycle bin (to be honest, there is gold to be found in the dumpster as well!). I have written before about the value of repurposing soon-to-be-recycled stuff into fine works of art or ingenious open-ended play materials. Those of us in early childhood professions often find ourselves at the mercy of tiny budgets, and work to create environments out of a conglomerate of discarded hand-me-downs – not that there is one ounce of anything wrong with creating environments out of second-hand materials, but beauty often takes a backseat to functionality when it comes to early childhood space design.
We didn’t dilute our water color today. We pulled out red, yellow, and blue, and armed with full-strength color, we painted strokes of beauty and creativity on thick, absorbent watercolor paper. We used white crayons to create a color resist, we pressed down masking tape before adding color to protect some area of our pages for a striking white design, and we even soaked strips of paper in water first and then added color, watching the primary set bleed and then transform into the secondary. (more…)
Christian created this masterpiece while chanting methodically, “My mama is going to love this!” With every sticker, each fringe cut on the cereal box, and all the letters written (there is a whole alphabet of Christan’s invented spelling on the reverse side), her excitement grew. My mama is going to LOVE this! She beamed as she finished her creation, and when it was done and sitting patiently in her cubby waiting for it’s beloved recipient to arrive, Christian visited periodically to gaze admiringly at the finished product, and to occasionally add an embellishment here or there that she found lacking in the form of a stray googly eye or a piece of cut yarn. With so much attention paid during the course of a day waiting, the piece lost some of its extras, but it was with a heart bursting of love that Christian presented it at the end of the day to her mama who received the gift in the spirit in which it was intended – matching love for love – and thus offering back to her daughter what was most desired.
Spend anytime around here, and you will discover that we are thoroughly process people. Parents of the Abundant Life children are accustomed to picking up their children — proudly displaying their creations: envelopes full of tiny pieces cut confidently with scissors, a repurposed snack cracker box swimming in glue, or invisible paper holding layers of caked and cracking tempera paints. Sometimes the work stays here, elegantly displayed to be revisited and admired in subsequent days and weeks. Often it travels home, messages of love captured by the careful and inspired work of small hands.
We have had mini-pumpkins, gourds, and all kinds of fall squashes in our space for a little over a month. They have been carried around, put in baskets, rolled down the slide, talked into like telephones, “cooked” in the play oven, fed to the dinosaurs, and any number of other amazing feats of wonder. It was about time for these emblems of fall to find a home in a compost bin somewhere, and I decided to set up for one final squash-extravaganza. I taped paper to our table so the entire surface was covered, displayed the squashes in the middle, and waited for the kids to be drawn to the table.
“Oooo…what are *these* for??” (Amazing how the squashes take on a new life when they are moved to a new place.)
“I don’t know. They have an interesting texture. I thought they might be interesting to use with some paint.”
Looks like I was on to something. Everyone was thrilled with the plan. We all gathered at the table, and I brought out paint and platters. I imagined the kids would use the squashes like stamps — after all, they had such unique textures — but that’s not at all what happened next!