Moments #1 happened in my backyard on a beautiful day. I paid attention to the world around me, up high and down low. Moments #2 (below) goes far deeper into the importance of little things, and how they really become big things in the education of the young child.
There is a scene in a Robin Williams movie where he is sitting around a campfire with his daughter. He says to her,
“This is it. It.”
She doesn’t understand what he means. He goes on to explain that this moment is as good as it gets. It is something wondrous, precious, all in a moment.
I know exactly what he means, for one of those moments happened to me recently. We took our grandchildren out for ice cream after dinner. The dairy farm sits atop a hill out in the country. It’s a beautiful spot.
This made me smile.
We walked to the top of the hill, and I said, “This is it. It.”
I was Robin Williams. My grandchildren looked, really looked.
Yes, moments. This is also the foundation of what I teach in school. The little things that happen – moments – are really the big things. If I pay attention to children and celebrate the little things that happen, somehow it builds into the big things, and the greatest moments of learning. This is called ’emergent curriculum’, yet I call it taking the bull by the horns and running. Curriculum is only a guide. The pathway to ‘it‘ is up to educators.
Here are some ‘it’ moments that happened in my classroom:
Children’s passion for singing “God Bless America” became a year-long journey of making a quilt and traveling to a museum. I often think about what would have happened if I had enjoyed the children’s singing, and just left it at that. Nothing. That makes me shudder.
When reading “Little Red Riding Hood” a child asked if wolves really eat people. That spurred a trip to Wolf Hollow where we could meet wolves. No, they don’t eat people. We watched TeeBee, the wolf who was ‘timed out’ by his wolf family for being a slacker. Then we learned about families, and we ‘adopted’ a wolf. What would have happened if I had only answered the child’s question about wolves eating people? Nothing. Another shudder.
When we read a book about grizzly bears and Alaska, salmon and bald eagles, we opened our Big Book Atlas. As soon as we open this book, children are bursting with questions. They love geography. We found Alaska and learned the bald eagle is the symbol of America, our national bird. I immediately rushed to find a one-dollar bill, showing children the bald eagle. Then a child pointed to George Washington on the bill and asked, “Who is that?” All the while, the Big Book Atlas had been propped up. Someone noticed George Washington on Mount Rushmore. Of course we learned about carving Mount Rushmore and all the Presidents. Can you picture all this diverse, incredible learning and excitement? What would have happened if I had just read the book about grizzly bears and Alaska and not opened the atlas? Nothing. I shudder again.
At summer camp, I let children plan a play performance. Easy? No! But, if I encourage and inspire children, wonderful things happen. Children decide everything. We sneak into the storage room (crawling in the hallway so as not to be seen) to find anything for a costume. Kevin was shy. He wanted to be a dog in the play. He found a piece of brown card stock (he was thrilled!), took it back to our classroom and carefully cut out a tiny triangle. That was his dog tail. That’s what he wanted. When Kevin walked onto the stage, he was proud and confident, not shy. No one could see his tail, but that didn’t matter. He knew it was there. What would have happened if I had given children costumes? Kevin would have never come into his own. Another shudder.
The little things are really the big things. Moments are precious. Stay tuned for a final moment, #3.