This is a continuation of my previous post.
‘Gloria’, the classroom puppet evolved over two decades into a ‘person’ that continues to give children reasons to think about others. One early conversation (of which there are many) the children had with Gloria seems to confirm this development from pretend to real. This one was around Halloween:
A child: “Gloria, I like your blankie. Do you have a toy?”
Gloria shakes her head “no”.
A child: “Oh.” (A long pause) “Do you have a Halloween costume?”
Teacher: “I don’t think Gloria has one yet. What should she be?”
A child: “A Powder Puff Girl!”
Another child: “A Princess!”
Another child: “Thomas the Train!”
Another child: “A pumpkin!”
Teacher: “Let’s ask Gloria after rest time.”
A child: “Gloria, would you like a nap mat? You can rest with your blankie.” The children became excited, and their questions were rapid.
Many children: “Can you have snack with us?” “Can you play outside?” This conversation continued, with the children clearly interested and making sure Gloria had what she needed. They were really saying, “Are you ok? I care. I want to be your friend.”
To understand Gloria’s blankie we need to back a few years. The concept of a grandparent together with young children has always been part of my classroom. One example is GaGa and the role she played with Gloria. After the children were worried that Gloria did not have her own blankie, GaGa brought her sewing machine into the classroom and made a blankie for Gloria out of scraps of fabric. All of this involved the help of the children – this activity was remarkable!
The evolution from a blankie to a quilt is an explosion of the role of Gloria. Here is how it all began:
My husband and I were in Philadelphia and wanted to see Carpenter’s Hall. Across the street was the National Liberty Museum where we went next. In the main lobby was a beautiful structure, a Peace Portal. It had four legs and a striking glass canopy.
I immediately knew that this Peace Portal was something I could do in my classroom. We recreated the structure on top of our loft, and the children spent time there under the canopy of Peace, like the one at the museum.
This was a year-long project, but Gloria would have the last word.
The next fall my husband and I visited the Bennington Museum where there was a collection of Haitian peace quilts. These quilts were murals. I immediately knew that we could make one in the classroom. After all, we had just made a Peace Portal, and yet it felt as if the children needed more.
When Gloria introduced the concept, she told the class that her blankie is not a blankie; it’s a quilt. Actually, it’s her peace quilt because it makes her feel peaceful. We looked at her quilt, and she told the class all about it, and why it makes her feel peaceful. Then, with Gloria’s help, we decide to make our own Peace Quilt. If we can build a Peace Portal, we can make a Peace Quilt.
Gloria asked all the children what they felt peace was to them. Then we made a Peace Poetry Book about our ideas, and then we sketched them out onto big paper. Our artist parent was incredibly patient as the children made many changes as to how the quilt should look, all with their ideas. Gloria was looking on at every step.
Our current class grandparent, Milly, a master quilter, joined our class with warm, welcoming arms to make the quilt. She spent months with children, letting each child select just the right fabric for the quilt. In the process, she became Gloria’s best friend. Really! The necklace that Gloria wears is a gift from Milly.
Today the magnificent quilt hangs as a permanent display at the National Liberty Museum in historic Philadelphia. They got wind of the project, knew we had recreated their Peace Portal, and asked if they could have the quilt. Gloria was the invited guest to unveil the quilt. After all, it was her idea and her support all the way along. Yes, Gloria was there!
My blog picture is the Peace Quilt, inspired by Gloria.