Bringing Community to Children

Andy the Tool Man is a carpenter.  He prides himself in both his craftsmanship and his father’s and grandfather’s hand tools.  There’s something warm and enticing about old tools.  Andy knows that, and so do the children.

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We used the big, old ‘bit and brace’ with its warm wood patina.  We measured our feet with a folding ruler, and then we measured the hallway with a 50′ tape measure.  Using real hammers and saws on a woodworking table was an exciting challenge.  Real tools are far different than toy tools; learning how to actually manipulate a tool takes plenty of practice and also patience.  Yet, real is better than pretend, so the experience was something children wanted to do.  Our hand and arm muscles had a good workout…just what is needed in order to learn to pump a swing, and then to write.

Why do I have people in our community visit the classroom?  Because their presence makes an important connection for children.  Whether it is watching a firefighter dress in full gear, thanking a police officer, or sitting in an emergency vehicle, children need to feel part of their own community.

I wrote about this some years ago after my first visit to the Eric Carle Museum:

THE CHILD IN THE COMMUNITY

As the circle of a child’s experience expands from family to school to community, so does awareness of self and others.  Activities outside the family, such as playgroups and preschool, broaden children’s horizons, widening their social and emotional encounters.  Excursions to the playground, post office, or library offer new and exciting opportunities as well as challenges.  Feelings of attachment to a neighborhood or local landscape develop.

Whether new or familiar, communities can be places that nurture cultural identity, diversity, responsibility, adventure, and a sense of belonging.  As children find places in their community that lend themselves to these possibilities, their ties and interest deepen.  As such, a child’s community involvement begins to build the foundation for citizenship and belonging.

A child’s journey is a community staircase, local to global.  Those steps, one-by-one, from family to schools and to area towns, have a significant impact on a child.  Children are continually learning and modeling from peers and adults.  Events and experiences in this context begin to shape a child’s character.

The continuance of the steps along this pathway takes a child beyond local reaches to their state and country.  Our world is becoming smaller, with its rich diversity and varied opportunities.  When these cumulative experiences are nurturing and interesting to a child, they are helping to build future citizens and members of our world community with the roots of goodness and the wings of responsibility.  Community comes full circle.

What can your child find in the community?  Something that inspires a smile, a curious question, or a sense of wonder certainly reflects the importance that community provides.  Whether it is the library, post office, or other venue, the step from family to school to community is an important part of a child’s development.  At Groton Community School we embrace the family, and open the doors to the community.  It is purposeful that “Community” is our middle name.  Our responsibility and passion is to foster a sense of belonging in the classroom and at school.  We strive to be an important link from nest to flight.

Written by Jennie Fitzkee, Head Teacher, Groton Community School with inspiration and quotations from the Eric Carle Museum.

A thank you letter is always in order!

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Jennie

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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39 Responses to Bringing Community to Children

  1. You’re such a kind and loving person, Jennie.:)

  2. reocochran says:

    The community surrounding a child is very good fuel for thought, action and unity, Jennie. Your bringing in special members of the town the children live in is a precious link in their development. I believe, as you do, feeling a connection can be a key in adding depth to their “roots.” This will later help them take off, but hopefully this will pull them back. I like the idea of community partners and included it in the grant I wrote for the children’s program for the Lighthouse in Lancaster, a battered women’s shelter. Ohio Senator Gene Branstool (farmer-senator) found out I needed a sponsor for the line item on a bill with monies towards partnerships. I included the YMCA, library, fire and police department. Allowing us to visit and donate portions to community partners created bonds of strength for children who had some insecurities and doubts that anyone cared. We went swimming, joined gymnastics at the Y, went to visit the fire station who collected toys for their holidays and birthdays. The police were already part of their “stories” with mixed reviews. We had the kids escorted to parks by off duty cops. . . The library let us use their conference room for secure and supervised visitation with family members and daddies.
    I am not saying this is the same, but similar philosophy and we have been on a parallel path at one time. 🙂 (1984-85)

    • jlfatgcs says:

      That’s wonderful, Robin! Yes, what you did is very similar and brings a sense of belonging to children. You are such a giver and care deeply for others. Thank goodness you were there to make that connection. You probably haven’t realized that all you did touched the lives of your community firefighters, police, YMCA, etc. as well.

  3. Yu/stan/kema says:

    Wonderful thing to do for the children.

  4. Norah says:

    Community is very important, as is supporting children’s every step to widen that circle of community. I love the way you describe doing so as from “nest to flight”. Gorgeous. 🙂
    I also love that thank you letter. I’m sure Andy appreciated it too. It is wonderful for children to have these first-hand experiences. Nowadays with so much in their lives store bought, it is important for them to understand where things come from and how they are made.

  5. I so agree with this point of view. My children missed these experiences and so did most in my generation. So glad you are changing all that for the next generation.

  6. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    This is a wonderful blog about children and community.

  7. magarisa says:

    What a wonderful idea for expanding children’s perspectives!

  8. Wonderful. Very special to build bridges in your community. I love the idea of old tools, too. One of my favorite childhood memories is ‘helping’ my grandfather in his woodshed.

  9. I’m thinking that at some point, children need to discover that there is more to real life than what is presented as such on a screen, and that they should not only hold part of that life in their hands, but know they really are free to experiment with the elements of their world free of judgment. Your technique provides a wonderful way to inspire children!

  10. srbottch says:

    Jennie, after all my years I have finally read something about the education process of youngsters that makes absolute sense. With all the money, energy and resources expended and often wasted in this area, you have explained the approach succinctly and it should be required reading for all elementary school programs. I’ve always been curious about ‘what people do and how they do it’. Your story, here, describes the root of my curiosity. In all likelihood, it started with early educational programs that you describe and parents who nurtured me to explore. And while they had very a limited education, themselves, they understood what was necessary for me to become part of the community of man. Thank you for a wonderful posting.

    • jlfatgcs says:

      I hardly know where to begin, as a mere ‘thank you’ seems quite small. I pay close attention to children because you never know when a moment of learning presents itself. Learning is a wonder in itself and I am lucky to be there when it happens. Actually, my blog is in fact required reading by a college professor at both his Tufts and UMass Boston Early Childhood courses. Humbling. Many thanks for your kind words. I am working on a post today about reading-aloud, which is a root of all learning. -Jennie-

      • srbottch says:

        I taught elementary school in a small northern Illinois town for five years after earning a BA. The main industry in the town was a Green Giant packing plant and a Chrysler assembly plant. A common thread among the children was their love of listening to stories that I read. ‘Charlotte’s Web’ was probably the favorite. I remember reading ‘The Old Man and The Sea’, ‘Tom Sawyer’ and you could hear a pin drop during that time slot. The kids would read on their own as part of a voluntary reading club. They would give me a brief oral report of a completed book before I allowed them to post their name and earn a candy reward. If they wanted, they could stand in front of the class and give a book report. Some of the best ‘reporters’ were not necessarily the better ‘overall’ students. I sure hope they’re still reading.

  11. Oh, Jennie, what a sweet post! It is a gift to connect your children to their community. It’s like a network of loving that you’re helping them to access. Great post. Many blessings, Debbie 🙂
    Smiles!

  12. Loved this, wish You had been my preschool teacher.. but then I was plunged into school for the first time aged 5 when teachers were not all nice ..
    So enjoyed this paragraph.
    “A child’s journey is a community staircase, local to global. Those steps, one-by-one, from family to schools and to area towns, have a significant impact on a child. Children are continually learning and modeling from peers and adults. Events and experiences in this context begin to shape a child’s character.”

    Reminding me of thishttps://suedreamwalker.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/confucius-sue-dreamwalker.jpg Quote,
    Love and Blessings
    Sue

  13. This is so lovely and heart warming to see and read about, Jennie! It’s so important to get kids into contact with tools and stuff. I give a little pottery class and always enjoy the look on the kids’ faces when they’ve created something with their own hands 🙂 Love the picture where the carpenter helps the little girl to drill a hole into the wood 🙂

  14. Wow, this act is beyond comapare. Truly inspiring!

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