The late-season heirloom tomatoes were stunning in their gowns of scarlet red and golden yellow. The last of the summer raspberries rested quietly alongside mounds of squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and apples. Autumnal invitations were all around us: in the sweet sips of apple cider, in the texture of a pumpkin chocolate-chip cookie, in the dampness of our jackets.
We were fully present in these rich moments- alive to the experience- because we were authors.
Third grade authors, to be exact.
Authors who had just that morning received the greatest tool of all- a blank composition book. Embellished with a self-portrait (made from collage materials) and handmade paper (colored with bubbles blown in our very own bubble lab), the Writer’s Notebook is a place for each child to express themselves through the written word.
After a MAX train ride from school to downtown, a stroll through Director’s Park, and a stay at the Farmer’s Market, we were ready. Ready to settle in, become inward in our thinking, and let our words meet paper. So, seated in the lofty Beverly Clearly Children’s Room within Portland’s Central Library, we wrote. Soon there were lists, sketches, questions, images, and words where a few moments earlier there had been a blank page. Surrounded by long shelves full of colorful books, these third graders were doing the same work of the published authors that lined the walls.
Curiously, on two separate occasions while the authors were soaking up the experience of the Farmer’s Market, individuals came up to me and asked if the local schools had the day off. The underlying assumption was that because the children were in a public space in the late morning, they must not have school. I was quick to share with the strangers that no, it was not a day off, but rather these children were here to celebrate the launch of their Writer’s Notebooks. It wasn’t until after these brief encounters had passed that I was struck by their profoundness.
If we hold the image of school as a place, a building with walls, then we also place children within these confines. Therefore a farmers market, late Wednesday morning, has only adults in the absence of youth.
But what if we were to view learning and possibilities for school to encompass the world?
If I had the chance again, I would respond differently to these strangers. I would ask them these questions: What if seeing a group of children was applauded for how it must be a ‘day on’, a day where they are challenged to capture in their notebooks despite all the stimulation of the city? What if all children had the opportunity to know that their words, their voice was valued and essential to this conversation?
And then, just maybe, would nudge…have you seen those tomatoes at that little stand over there?