Teaching the Importance of Giving

My head is always spinning with excitement when I encounter or learn something new.  The pattern is predictable; ‘soak up what I see and hear’, and then ‘how can I teach this to children?’.  I am constantly on a quest to learn.  When that happens it’s a trigger, a shot of adrenaline.  Well, it’s actually more than that; it’s the foundation for how I teach young children.  If I’m excited, they will be too.  The simplicity of that statement is powerful.

                                                      child at museum

Over the past month I have visited three museums that were founded by philanthropists of the twentieth century; the Shelburne Museum in western Vermont, the Barnes Museum in Philadelphia, and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.  The visits were not planned, but the common denominator shouted loud and clear: Giving!

When I visit a museum I’m always excited and can often bring something to the classroom to inspire art or creativity.  Museums have been a wonderful catalyst for learning; we have designed quilts that hang in a national museum and a Fisher House, and replicated art with passion. Yet now, I realize I have a bigger challenge; teaching young children that the beginning of every great thing begins with the spirit of giving.  That is what I need to do.

Do you know Electra Havemeyer?  I did not know of her before I visited the Shelburne Museum.  She was a giver.  She is the reason the Shelburne Museum exists.  Do you know Albert C. Barnes?  I did not know of him before I visited the Barnes Museum.  He was a giver.  His entire collection, including over 140 Renoir’s are the reason the Barnes Museum exists.  Here is what he wrote in a letter to the master musician and conductor Leopold Stokowski in 1925:

“The most interesting thing in the world to me has always been a free, spontaneous expression of human nature – whether in a thought, a symphony, a poem, a painting, a statue, or an act of everyday life that shows the qualities of mind, heart and soul which, in my opinion, are the indispensables in any work of art.”

This was engraved in brass alongside an outdoor pool.  It was a freezing cold, snowy and rainy day, yet I needed to read those words over again, and remember them.  They were the beginning of what I knew I had to teach to my class of young children.  Those words influenced what I saw in these museums, into what their  founders believed.  I understood.

This is far bigger than a Renoir painting.  The whole thinking behind Barnes’ letter to Stokowski is the reason that a Renoir is displayed for the world to see.  Giving is a great shift from “me” to “you”.  That’s what a preschooler can understand.  The tricky part is teaching this on a broad scale.  That’s what I need to do, and I will.

I have a strong sense that many of the givers in the early part of the twentieth century had a larger vision.  They saw (or perhaps understood) that giving needed to reach and teach all people, and that’s why we have living museums such as Williamsburg and Old Sturbridge Village.

Learning + Excitement + Caring = Giving.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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15 Responses to Teaching the Importance of Giving

  1. jonna ellis holston says:


  2. Tanya Cliff says:

    I just spent the afternoon with my children at Madison, Wisconsin’s “free” Vilas Zoo. Of course, it isn’t free at all but the product of a lot of wonderfully generous people. Thanks for the post! It has reminded me to draw the attention of my children to the giving that resulted in their awesome day.

  3. Wonderful post full of heart! Thank you for sharing Mr. Stokowski’s timeless quote.

  4. frenchc1955 says:

    Thank you for a beautiful post!

    • jlfatgcs says:

      I’m always glad when you like one of my posts, Charles. Thank you! Funny thing, I have a great stack of newsletters ready to post (that was the whole reason for starting my blog). I just seem to keep writing new things in teaching. Writer’s block is not an issue. Like you, I just love to write what ‘happens’.

  5. Grandtrines says:

    Reblogged this on Still Another Writer's Blog.

  6. You are sooooooo spot-on!

  7. Visionaries… Yet another reason we still need young people to pursue the Arts and Humanities!

  8. vietnamtravelandculture says:

    Reblogged this on Vietnam Travel & Trade Portal .

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