Chickens Don’t Sweat

Chickens don’t sweat.  Really, this is absolutely true.  I was behind a chicken truck driving along the Eastern Shore yesterday.

The moment I saw this truck (I was driving) I yelled at my husband, “It’s a chicken truck!  Get the phone.  Please get a picture!”  I had to capture that memory of forty years ago.

We lived in Virginia back then, and it was the hottest summer on record.  So hot that animals were dying in huge numbers, specifically the chickens destined for the big processing plants along the Eastern Shore, like Perdue and Tyson.

In the height of this chicken tragedy, farmers with small chicken farms, and farmers who simply raised chickens, were the heroes.  They put their chickens in trucks and drove them around, just to cool them off.  Chicken trucks were running day and night to keep the animals cool and alive, basically saving the farm. It worked!

That summer was a scorcher.  My childhood in the south had many such summers.  And my memories are much like the chicken truck, piling into the back of a pick-up truck with my sisters and friends and driving around. I remember the breeze.  There was nothing better than an evening breeze and an ice cream cone after dinner.  We had no air conditioning.  Our big old house had a whole house fan.  My Dad knew just what windows to open and close to pull in the cool night air.  And, it was lovely.

A summer breeze does wonders for the soul and mind.  It brings us familiar smells ands sounds.  It can evoke memories, even forty-year-old ones, of chickens, summers, and childhood.  I still have no air conditioning today.  Some things are too good to let go.


Posted in Early Education, Imagination, Learning About the World, storytelling | Tagged , , , , | 30 Comments

Lightening Strikes Twice

The first bolt of lightening:


One year ago this week, I was recognized as one of seven Early Childhood Educators in Massachusetts.  It was an honor, and a celebratory event.  I stood among top educators and also the movers and shakers in the field of Early Education.  This event has now come full circle at school, exactly one year later.  It’s a really good story.  Oh, how I love to tell a story.

The conversation in the car with my husband headed to the event last year focused on what I might say.

“Will they give me a microphone to make a speech?”

“Of  course they will.”


I knew that.  I was just coming to grips with the reality of preparing myself.  I had no idea what I would say.  Then the moment came and the microphone was put into my hand.  People stepped aside, like the Red Sea parting.  I hoped they weren’t waiting for Moses…

I talked, and I told wonderful stories about children and teaching.  The audience was all ears, particularly one man in the front row.  He sat forward with his elbows on his knees and his hands under his chin.  He kept listening and scooting forward to hear every word.

There was a tap-tap-tap on my shoulder.  I was being told to wrap it up as others needed a chance to speak.  Gee, I could have talked and told so many more stories.  As I left, the man in the front row introduced himself as Tom Weber, the Commissioner of Early Education in Massachusetts.  He is the man directly under the Governor.  We struck up a wonderful conversation.  “Jennie, I want to hear the rest of that story!”  Of course I invited him to visit my classroom and school.  We exchanged emails, and that was how the evening ended.

Three is the charm, they say.  After three scheduling attempts, Tom Weber visited me and my school this week.

The second bolt of lightening struck.

He was wonderful!  Well, I wasn’t surprised as I had discovered that a year ago.  What was new was watching his interactions with children.  He never forgot a name, listened carefully to everything a child was trying to say, and genuinely had fun.  In my classroom  children were busy in a Pizza Parlor.

“Tom, are you hungry for some pizza?”, I asked.

Of course he was!  I had the pleasure of stepping aside and watching the Pizza Parlor in action.  It is good to know that the person in charge of Early Education in our state is equally and actively engaged with young children.  Ground roots.  I had to drag him away…it was time for the whole school to sing for him.  Our songs of peace and bucket filling (doing kind things for others) were terrific.  Every child belted out the words with heart.  Then, we sang “Love Grows”.  Well, Tom Weber figured out the hand signs in a heartbeat and sang along.  Loud!  As children left, he high-fived or smiled, or simply dropped to his knees to greet a child.  Children know.  They couldn’t get enough!


Posing with Tom Weber, and a group photo with our school’s Director and Assistant Director.  It was a big day.  Big for the children and for the school.  It was the second strike of lightening for me.


Posted in Early Education, Imagination, Kindness, Peace, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , | 42 Comments

The Art Show

“It took me a lifetime to learn to draw like a child.” -Pablo Picasso-

When I brought the children to see the Art Show this week, the first words were from a child, Allie.  She said, “This is beautiful!”  She was right.

“There are flowers for those who want to see them.”  -Henri Matisse-

I was able to be with each child in front of their art masterpiece.  This was ‘the moment’, as if they were seeing their art in a museum.  Hard work and heart needs to be recognized, especially with young children.  After all, growing children is like growing flowers; planting a seed and nurturing.  Art was the seed, and teaching was the nurturing.  A little water (tools) and sunshine (words) made all the difference.

Aaryan chose to paint Large Blue Horses, by Franz Marc.  Avery chose to paint the Mona Lisa, and Parker was inspired by Wassily Kandinsky.  Rowan painted a Starry Night.  Nora and Lexi were vested in the real artist paints, carefully squeezing the colors from tubes onto palettes and returning to their work over and over again.  Kate and Max used real spaghetti dipped in paint, creating art much like Jackson Pollock.

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” -Vincent van Gogh-

Dear Vincent, I couldn’t have said it any better.  You took the words right out of my mouth.


Posted in art, Early Education, Imagination, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , | 26 Comments

Children Giving To Their Sergeant Pen-Pal; A Life Lesson

Children are egocentric by nature.  Therefore, teaching the most important things in life, such as genuine thanks and caring, takes more than just words.  It takes doing.

After writing letters and drawing pictures for Sergeant Curran, our pen-pal stationed in Afghanistan, we hosted bake sales at school to raise money in order to buy him items that he might need.  As families arrived at school, children rang our bell, the kind used on a counter at a store to alert a clerk.  The bell is red- we love that bell!  Children were chanting, “Cookies for sale, muffins for sale”, in much the same way the peddler chants “Caps, caps for sale.  Fifty cents a cap” in the classic book Caps For Sale.  Perhaps the most fun was using a cash register to collect money and make the correct change.  We raised a little over $200.00.

Afterwards, the money in hand was a perfect tool for one of our best lessons in math.  Children gathered around the big, round table and watched as I opened the cash register.  I stacked all the one-dollar, five-dollar, and ten-dollar bills in separate piles.  We even had a few twenties.  I then taught the children that four quarters = one dollar, and ten dimes = one dollar.  We put the quarters in stacks of four and the dimes in stacks of ten.  Then we counted, from coins to twenty dollar bills, stopping along the way to learn that two fives = one ten.  What a great, hands-on math lesson.  Twenty minutes of engrossed children.

CVS is a short walk away, and we headed there to spend our $200.00 on what the children thought Sergeant Curran needed.  They made a list:

pencil and pen (rainbow)
toothpaste (pink)
note paper
Army guy book
snacks – Slim Jim

We had a blast!

Children picked out all the items on their list (except for the drum).  We had money to spare… now the children could follow their hearts, and not ‘a list’.  They were thrilled.  So they bought:

Nerf football
golden plastic eggs
Super Soaker
Paw Patrol mini basketball hoop and ball
crossword puzzle books
men’s magazines

I completely agreed with their choices.  Children suddenly went from what they felt Sergeant Curran needed to what he wanted.  The mind and the heart, working in unison, can be magic.

Back at school, we took time to spread out all the items for the children to see.

Looking at everything on the floor was… well, like walking into Fenway Park for the first time, or Christmas morning.  Children were overcome; the gifts staring at them right in the face, represented all that they had done, from the bake sale to CVS.  It felt good!  The children stared.  No words were needed.  This was a time to let it all soak in, what we did for Sergeant Curran.

Giving.  For young children this is not so easy, because in their world they come first.  They’re still learning about themselves, much less other people.  And that’s okay.  A real and meaningful giving experience has to be hands-on in order for children to grasp it’s importance.

That’s what we did, and children understood.  They stepped outside of their world and wanted to give.  And, it felt good.  Sergeant Curran will be on leave the end of May.  Can you imagine the shouts, hugs, tears, singing, stories… when he visits the children?


Posted in Early Education, Giving, Kindness, Math, military, patriotism, Peace, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , | 38 Comments

Milly and Our Peace Quilt

In the fall of 2015, the children in my classroom wrote a Peace Book; what they thought peace really was, through their eyes.  The book was genuine: my new baby sister, the ocean, reading a book, dinner with my family, and so much more.  It is a treasure.  I vividly remember Lucca’s entry, his beloved doll that had belonged to his mother.  Back in the day, his grandmother frantically tried to find a Cabbage Patch doll for her daughter and finally found one, a black one.  Of course Lucca’s mom loved the doll.  Better yet, Lucca adored that doll and named her Black Baby.  She is peace!

Peace is my new baby sister,
Butterflies and stars,
And playing outside.

Peace looks like a heart,
A gingerbread house,
Falling leaves,
And dancing.

Peace is Black Baby and cookies,
The ocean and reading.

Peace looks like the beach, my dog,
Dinner with my family,
Playing with a good friend.

Peace is my brother and sister.
Peace is my family.
Peace is peaceful.

Children understand.  They know.  Peace through their eyes is true.

The Peace Book inspired us to turn the book and all the ideas into a quilt.  Milly the master quilter, once again, began working with the children to create this magnificent quilt.  Children picked the fabrics and decided where everything should go.  They made sure it was ‘just so’.

The quilt is remarkable!  Butterflies actually fly their wings.  The chains of the swings are real chains.  The leaves falling from the tree are puffy hearts.  All of the elements are subtle.  You have to look twice.  The main image is a family looking outside their window at peace, all the parts of the Peace Book.

Milly is a master quilter, yet she is so much more to the Aqua Roomers.  Ask a child in my class, “Who is Milly’s best friend?”  They know.  Gloria. Yes, Gloria.  Those two ignite more love and excitement.  Children see that, and it makes a big impression.  Watching Milly and children interact and play together is a joy, because she has a way.  Greeting Milly, or saying goodbye to Milly, is always met with hundreds of hugs, and shouts of “Milly!” and “I love you.”  She’s a gem!

 I am connecting generations in the classroom, and that is tremendously important for children.

The quilt will hang at the Boston, Massachusetts State House for six months.  We will have a presentation at the Grand Staircase in the State House.  The Governor will be in attendance.

Milly and my Aqua Room children have made quilts that hang at the National Liberty Museum in historic Philadelphia (across the street from Carpenter’s Hall), and at the Fisher House in Boston.  Each quilt has a big story.  If you want to know more about Milly and her quilts with my classroom, there is much more on my blog.


Posted in art, Early Education, Imagination, Peace, quilting, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , | 48 Comments

Music Keeps Inspiring Art

Artists just… know.  So do children.  They both tell the world their passion through painting.  When music becomes part of creating art, magic happens.

“Art should make you feel, like music.”  -Wassily Kandinsky-

Kandinsky is a favorite artist with the children.  They like his colorful art, and they want to paint like him.  I read aloud the children’s book, The Noisy Paintbox: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art, by Barb Rosenstock.  When Kandinsky was a boy and first painted, he heard music as the paintbrush mixed the colors of paint.  The sounds of music were there throughout his life whenever he painted.  He named his pieces of art after the music he heard and loved.  Kandinsky understood that music and art are connected.  Children do, too!

Rowan wanted to paint Starry Night.  She used finger paints, and then asked for music. We had introduced Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Handel’s Water Music.  She knew right away that it was Water Music she needed to hear.  She was right.  Her masterpiece is incredible.

Music makes the difference.  The children know my words, “When you hear the music, it goes into your ears, then into your heart, and out your fingers.”  They feel empowered and they paint with abandon.

“Color is a power that directly influences the soul.  Color is the keyboard.  The artist is the hand that plays.” -Wassily Kandinsy-

When I show children colorful art, indeed they feel, much like what Kandinsky and other artists understood.  A favorite painting is Large Blue Horses, by Franz Marc.  The bold brush strokes and the intense blues are stirring.  No wonder children want to paint that masterpiece.  Aaryan certainly did.  We were in the middle of cleaning up after snack, not the time we were painting.  But Aaryan needed to paint.  So, I set up the stand-up table for him, including a picture of Large Blue Horses.

A short while later he said, “Jennie, you forgot the music.”  Yes, I had forgotten.  Aaryan wasn’t sure what he wanted to hear, so I held up different album covers.  He chose The Supremes, perhaps because it, too, had a colorful cover.  The music certainly fit the moment, as he listened to the words in the song that said, “…love is like an itching in my heart…”  Then, Aaryan went to work in earnest.  Beautiful!

If I can fill the hearts of children with music and art, they have the foundation of goodness and also courage.  I like to think that a ‘sense of self’ is a great gift.  While they may not remember these preschool experiences, that mark has already penetrated, and will help shape who they become.

We mount and frame children’s art next week.  Children then get to name their masterpieces.  After all their hard work, each one deserves a title.  They will hang in our annual Art Show for the whole community to see and enjoy.  Stay tuned!


Posted in art, Early Education, Imagination, music, Quotes, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , , | 55 Comments

Happiness Can Be Bought!

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments