Our story unfolds…
As you may know, in Opal 2 we have been wondering about these questions in many mediums and through many experiences as we dive into the work of living community.
We wanted to share our story and our wonderful meanderings with all of you. Its a rather long story so get comfy!
From our first experience of wondering together: "What happens when your special color meets another in our community?" We explored the meaning and joy of connecting with others.
“My paint is dancing – want to connect? It's so much like they are making friends. We're making friends in so many places…” M. B.
“I saw a painting with really different colors and it reminded me that really different people could make really good friends. “ S. S.
“I wish we could use all of the colors at my table… I mean combining makes the the community stronger and more beautiful than when everyone only has their own. N. T.
As teachers we wondered: How much could children transfer from materials to their friendships with each other? How would children express their experience of community through using their colors in various ways?
As a class, we brainstormed words and ideas about what a healthy community could “look like, feel like and sound like.” These words along with our drawings of ourselves, brought our ideas into the room to provide the inspiration for both our actions and our imaginations.
Still we wanted to go deeper and know more.
As we broadened our scope to include our Opal garden boxes into this idea of community we heard children repeatedly connecting life for us with life in the garden.
"We know that plants need sun, water and food (or nutrients) in their soil but they also need love, help and protection from everybody just like kids do." E. D.
Even as we wondered together: "What image could we create that uses our colors to show what we know about our community?" The references to the garden continued.
"I am kind of thinking that a tree grows into a blossom in the middle. There is a seed and it is planted and it grows and the blossom comes." P.B.
"The blossom is the community." V.R.
"The people all come together to make one giant blossom." Q.S.
In collage and with watercolor and black line pen we brought this conversation back to the children to help them explore “blooming” as a metaphor for community.
What do we need to protect our community from? What is dangerous to community?
"Disbelief – people who don't like communities." M.B.
"When our community helps each other and our community gets stronger and older everyone can protect the others." M. C.
Why is equality important in community?
“We need equality of care. It wouldn’t be fair if some people were cared for more than others. “ B.C.
"Loving or caring about everyone helps the community, like a family, everyone loves everyone else. We feel sare when we feel loved." D.W.
"The seeds are the circles in the middle and they are the kids in the community." S.M.
"The roots can be the grownups in the community." N.L.
" The grownups help the kids grow." A. E.
"The kids turn into grown-ups and it starts over again. It is just like the life cycle of a flower and people. But a flower has a shorter life cycle than a community." Q.S.
WOW! As children worked with materials, all of this amazing thinking emerged. It seemed as though a clear direction for our image reflecting community would surely take shape. With excitement the teachers brought yet another question to the children hoping to lend practicality to all of this visioning. We gathered together clipboards in hand ready to record all the brilliant thoughts and asked: "When have you felt this “blooming” in Opal 2?" We heard… silence. Yes, children had experienced it on soccer teams, in their families, even in Opal 1 a few times, but this year… not yet.
Ugh! Really? All this working together felt so good but yet the children are saying to us, not yet? We teachers had to let that settle in. We remained dedicated to grounding our work in the children's real experience and their message appeared clear. Many things they could tell us about community, but the experience of blooming - not yet, not yet.
Once the adults backed up from our own hopes and visions, we once again stood in awe of the children’s wisdom and honesty. OF COURSE not yet! Community, the real kind that can endure both the brilliance and imperfections of its participants takes time. Relationship and commitment rely upon many shared experiences to craft and trust. May I say, in all honesty…”duh.” We are absolutely a work in progress and thankfully the children in Opal 2 reminded us teachers not to settle for less.
Invigorated by the depth of the children’s wisdom we now began to craft curriculum around our many new wonderings: How could we help children continue to show their understanding of a community in process? What images could help children express their thinking about their community and their roles in it? What is the relationship between their thoughts about equality and the expectation of uniformity? Can we make room for individuals within a group? Will everyone need the same thing to bloom? What does it mean to protect each other and show care for each other? What can we learn about this care from our caring for the garden? And finally, what about this image we have been working toward? How could we continue to utilize children's colors and imaginations to express their authentic emotions and experiences?
Deep challenging questions all, so naturally, we asked the children! In small groups children began to design an image that could express our thinking about community thus far.
The thinking continues and an image takes shape.
"You have to be equal or else it's not even a community." B.C.
"But everyone is not the same, so different people might be different." T. P.
"Maybe should all have the same space but not the same lines." S.R.
"Instead of lines someone might put squiggles." L. H.
"You could put circles out [at the end of the lines] the circles are the people." N.N.
Now we continue to paint ourselves into the mural, to find ways for our colors to meet on the canvas. We have planted seeds in the garden and now we are reminding each other to care for what we have sown. As we do that, we wait, we wait for what we know will inevitable come: sun, warmth, growth and a bloom. We invite you to wonder with us what kind of flower will unfold.