A monster hat. Clothes for a favorite bear. And a fishing set. Check it out. Share if you’ve done the same. If you haven’t, think about what you can make for your child for a special gift and lasting memory.
Talk about a quote that’s useful (albeit this post title is a spin on the original quote: “It takes a village.”) I’ve seen it used to describe the community mothers feel in helping one another with their children, and I’ve heard it used nefariously against that same community (assuming that one mother knows best. . .as that mindset posed by Dr. Rosemary Stein.
It first came into mother and childcare worker vernacular, I suppose, when Hillary Clinton used it in her book title: It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us (1996). That’s the year before I started graduate school for certification in music education, and I remember reading the book and referencing it in at least one paper I wrote.
There are many speculations about the origin of the phrase.
For me, today, in this post it serves to show that children will often create a village through their creative projects. That is, by enabling creative projects with them in a group setting, we foster community in an organic way.
Recently when hired to do a lesson related to the season of Advent with an Episcopal children’s music program, I decided to let them create crowns with paper and foam supplies (not at all hard to come by). Clearly in a Christian church setting, the notion of a crown is for the birthday boy, and the concept of a kingdom tied to the Trinity enfolds.
But crowns can be a theme in almost any learning setting. Most every culture has had a history of monarch rule. History lessons can be figurative in accompaniment of creative learning projects. . .that is to say, you don’t have to tread into the weeds of contention on varying views of historical worth. Consider the games where crowns come in. . .chess, checkers or the history of the crown jewels in London.
Contemplative song-writing in popular media has not escaped the notion of the crown either, so even with a high school English class, you could do some art journaling on the concept of the crown. And don’t forget . .and the notion of who wears the crown in this American culture.
From a simple project for young children, all the way on up to young adult, the concept of the crown opens doors to a myriad of in depth subjects. Tis the season. . . why not explore it in as much depth as you can?
While Scissors and Glue is mostly focused on resources that engender creative learning, it is important to remember those abstract aspects that create depth in any effort. Just as “creative processes” can accompany any subject matter in teaching and learning (not just art class), so too can music ignite the spark all children need in their growth and development. Check it out here.
There is a saying that if you want to build community, start bouncing a ball. And it makes sense. . .a bouncing ball is inviting to come and play, which takes people off guard and creates the simple smiles on other’s faces. A bouncing ball, therefore, breaks down barriers and fosters trust.
I believe a roll of paper is the same way. Put a roll of paper in a teacher workroom, and teachers will overflow with ideas about how to use it—it will just happen. And this will foster creativity, which will foster resourcefulness and inclusive learning.
Now, many newspaper printers have recycling contracts on their end rolls. But if you find an entity like Scissors and Glue, who negotiates with companies like the ones who print newspapers, you can get your end rolls on the cheap (if not for free).
Schools, in my experience, are pretty good about allowing a culture of giving thanks and in celebrating a giving spirit between Nov. 20 and Jan. 1. We all know that allegiance to any particular tradition simply cannot fly in any homogenous sense within our rich, diverse citizenry. (Some people lament the notion that there was, at some time, a period when we all could. . .I tend to think such lamentation is based on illusion (delusion?) and merely on the perpetuation of the stories we tell ourselves and our children). Be that as it is or may be, and whether or not pockets of our culture are going to spend energy (spinning their wheels?) on “getting back to a homogenous way of celebrating certain days chosen in accordance with the sun or the moon cycles to honor special days of our ancestors and their connecting with gratitude and spiritual insight,” I think it’s a given that the spirit of giving thanks, expressing hope and holding a hand do float around this time of year in most circles that follow the calendar to which our US Postal service adheres. Enter Scissors and Glue!
The project: create tags to go on gifts or to be used as expressions of joy, thanksgiving, generosity or hope
The materials: save the tags that come on clothing items; collage them, decoupage them, add ribbon and string
This featured scholarly article provides good insight into Leonard Bernstein’s Artful Learning Model .
Many educators view the influence outside of education realms to often be questionable in terms of true support for the endeavor of public schooling (I’m thinking of the Eli Broad Foundation and the Gates Foundation and the influences, particularly philanthropic, that have taken over entire school boards, teacher training programs and nation-wide curriculum structures). Perhaps the difference is the mighty dollar—that is to say, if the philosophy is rooted in anything already purchased, promoted or paid for, can it truly be an organic improvement to our public schooling? Read the scholarly article and the contemplation will continue. . .
Most of us who flip through a magazine or catalogue within a quarter will notice trends in almost every category, from party supplies (mustaches are in! photo props and barn parties), to clothing (boho is the new black), to what you must have in your kitchen (old fashioned milk bottles and ceramic cartons that look like cardboard strawberry pails).
So from whence cometh these trends? Probably, those lucky enough to be at the top of the publishing food chain have a lot to do with it (I’m thinking of The Devil Wears Prada).
I think that it actually doesn’t matter if you create a theme to enable learning, pick up on someone else’s theme, totally emulate another person’s theme or simply notice it through subconscious intuition. What matters is that you examine it for its potential to help children connect to various areas of learning, you utilize it well in a way that helps them create mnenomic pathways and that you help them create memories to accompany their learning experiences that are pleasant.
In the last post I mentioned that celebrating an event or creating a series of lessons is made easier to facilitate, imagine, dream and engage in for the planner or teacher when there is a theme involved. With continuous references to Integrated Thematic Instruction (and its application to teacher training and outreach as well as classroom lesson planning), there is so much creative potential; however, it is important to not forget the substance behind the theme. The theme needs to be connected to the heart of some larger meaning.
For the last teacher event we coordinated, we used a Pine Cone theme. It made for fun fall decorating and festive foodies. But underneath that decor and aura, there was a metaphor for teachers to consider. That metaphor is teacher and schools as conifers.
In my opinion, the approach in education, particularly in the last two decades when there has been a need for precision in evaluating what kind of education process and setting is hitting the mark or the goal, has been too akin to a deciduous tree model. With this model the assumptions are similar to that of a flowering tree: a dormant period (for teachers and schools, this would be summertime), a period of greening, and a period of flowering (for teachers and schools this has been made the equivalent of springtime testing, with test scores as the flowers). Because this model has been manipulated to the point of losing depth in educational approach, I suggest the model of a conifer. With year-round school schedules and wrap-around services, schools really don’t have a dormant period anymore. And we all know, now, that we are not creating a bloom. . we are contributing to the development of individual pockets of potential for future growth (much like a pine cone).
No analogy is perfect, but I’m sure the gist can be easily followed here. And it can be applied to big questions in educational theory, or even examining the placement of learners and those teaching them as they are situated in the context of the world around them and the factors influencing their experience. Consider the conifer!
This week we will take a look at nuance in the philosophies we push forth in learning. Everything we do with students, every setting we create puts forth a subtext, or an underlying philosophy of our own standards of teaching and approaching the world.
What is yours? A recent meeting of teacher leaders experienced a metaphorical approach of viewing teachers and schools less like flowering trees (dormant in the summer with blossoms revealed through test scores in the spring), to that of being conifers. We celebrated teaching with this theme in mind. Stay tuned.