Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Power of Observation...Wonder Arts: 2.12.13

How do we know what young children need?
 Watch them...observe them...listen to what they say...
 You can easily miss opportunities if you're not careful.
 In getting my degree at UF ... that is probably the most important skill I was taught.
How to observe.
 Observation is about letting go of your own needs, letting go of any judgement you may hold inside.
And solely concentrating on what is happening before your very eyes.
True observation occurs when you DO NOT intervene.
 I know easier said than done.

 It's actually one of the hardest and most important things I do as a teacher.
I usually do it with a camera in my hand...
 And it's the one thing that I always think I can do better.
 In observing children, you end up learning about children.
 You will begin to see and hear what is important to them.

Then you begin to understand what they need.

 I wonder how classes could evolve if we all spent a little more time observing??
 Ok...I think we're on to something here...

To be continued!!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Time to Wonder...Sweethearts Saturday 2013

"Out on the islands that poke their rocky shores above the waters of Penobscot Bay, You can watch the time of the world go by, from minute to minute, hour to hour, from day to day, season to season."

Time of Wonder, written by Robert McCloskey...published in 1957 and winner of the prestigious Caldecott Medal in 1958.

If you are not familiar with this book, please go to the library and check it out!!
I am in awe of the children's books written 50 years ago.  It's quite interesting to see the beautiful pictures...
But what's really amazing is the language...

"The rain comes closer and closer.
Now you hear a million splashes.
Now you even see the drops
on the water...
on the age-old rocky point...
on the bayberry...
on the grass...
Now take a breath-"
I imagine you might be in disbelief when you see I am recommending a book for young children that is 63 pages Long with only very simple Watercolor pictures!

And... it could take you well over 30 minutes to read it aloud to your little one!

If you compared Time of Wonder to a more current Caldecott winner...you will see the Picture books of today contain pictures that are FAR more detailed and much more eye catching.
And you will see that the language has been very much simplified in  an effort to hold a young child's attention.
And while I love many of the children's books of today as well...I find myself saddened by the slow erosion of our beautiful language.

I am disappointed that we don't take the time to read a book like Time of Wonder to our young children because it's TOO long.
In 1957, books like Time of Wonder and Blueberries for Sal, were typical reads for those children. They knew words like "silhouettes" and "migration".
Somehow, over the years (and I suspect the invention of Children's Television programs), our view of children's capabilities has decreased.  
We see a child's attention span as lacking.
We don't think our child will find beauty in a simple watercolor still life.
Even Doctors will tell you, "2 year olds have an attention span of about 2 minutes."
"3 year olds, 3 minutes, etc..."

Bring these "Experts" here to Wonder Studio and you will see 2 year old children gluing for well over 10 minutes.

You will see 2 and 3 year olds hammering Real Nails and drilling real wood for more than 25 minutes!!!

You will find 3 year olds developing a Love of nature with the most minuscule of creatures.  A worm.

Children want to appreciate.
Children want to devote their attention.
Children want to be held accountable.

If only their Grown-Ups could give them these opportunities.

Last night, I asked my daughter to pick out a book for me to read to her brother and to herself.  She proudly brought Time of Wonder because she knew her brother LOVES boats.
I said to her...No, no, no, that book is too long.  Artie can't possibly listen to that whole story.
So, she sadly went to pick out a "shorter" story, laying Time of Wonder on the coffee table.
I don't even now remember what "short" story we read.  But I will never forget my son's face when he first saw Time of Wonder laying there on the coffee table.
It was as if, 2 friends had been reunited for the first time in years.

He carefully opened the book, stared in awe at the pictures...looking at me and urging me to read it to him.

My daughter was right.
Once again, I am the grumpy Mom who didn't really see...
I missed it...
My 2 year old son went to bed with Time of Wonder in his crib with him.
And I am once again reminded of my own voice, my own heart...and what I told you above...

Take the time...
Have a little faith...
Take the Time to Wonder...

Be in awe of 2 things...
Your children.
"Take a farewell look
at the waves and sky.
Take a farewell sniff
of the salty sea.
A little bit sad
about the place you are leaving,
a little bit glad
about the place you are going.
It is a time of quiet wonder-"
p. 62