Sometimes project work starts with a big catalyst- moving to a new space, breaking an arm, babies born in the community, etc., but sometimes it starts with something small, something tiny- maybe something that can fit in your cubby when you get to school or even in your pocket to stay with you and jingle it’s reminder of it’s presence throughout your day. Such a little precious thing can grow and grow in a fertile environment such as a reggio-inspired preschool classroom. It just takes one seed planted in these rich minds to burst into a bountiful garden for all to harvest from.
We had a tiny treasure brought to school as a transitional item recently, that has grown to fill our classroom. SM was having a drop-off last week that felt challenging for her. She always enjoys school but didn’t want to say goodbye to her favorite people in her life to start her school day. On this day, however, she brought something special with her to keep close if she needed a love-boost from home. It was a tiny prismatic charm pendant with a rainbow of gems strung together. She tucked it away for safe keeping and worked on saying her reluctant goodbyes once again. I always want to hold space for those precious see-ya-later moments between loved ones, but there also comes a time when a loving intervention from a friend or teacher can be so helpful in the transition. I especially like to show them something that I think might capture their interest and remind them that they are also about to have fun playing and exploring.
I also like to ask them a question. This engagement shows them that I see them, care about them, and want to know more. This all comes naturally though; I never struggle to come up with a question to ask the children- they are usually showing me what they’d like me to inquire about. Maybe it’s a look in my eyes, and then a pointing shoe tap that gives me a clue to ask, “Oh, are those new shoes?”. Or maybe they are holding out the ends of their dress and smiling at me to help me see what my question should be. In this case, SM held a beautiful treasure up for a moment and then tucked it away safely.
Katee: “Oh, is that a rainbow treasure that you brought today SM?”
SM: “Yes. It’s from my home.”
Katee: “Oh, wow, can I see it?”
SM: “Sure!”, as she pulls out this shimmering strand, “It’s kinda fragile. It can go in a window.”
Katee: “Oh, this is so special! What beautiful colors. The whole rainbow! Would you like to hang it in the window today in our classroom?”
Katee: “You know, I have something similar to this at my house. It just has one clear charm though that’s a prism. Would you like me to bring it to show you?”
SM: “Yeah! Yeah, this is a prism too!”
And just like that, the rainbow seed was planted.
SM took her treasure home at the end of the school day, and the next day I shared with her my own little window pendant from home. She was having another reluctant drop-off and quickly changed her tune when I told her I had brought the special item that she and I had already built a connection around. It was a cloudy soft day, but we hung our prism in the window right where we had hung hers the day before. Then it happened. Days later, when weren’t expecting it, I saw a rainbow on the wall. I gasped and then saw another and another. I actually started yelling her name (partly out of excitement and surprise, and partly because I thought our patch of sunshine might be fleeting). I stood up and we ran into each other in the hall as she came to see what the fuss was about. “Rainbows!”, I said, “Look at the rainbows! It’s working!” She screamed and shook with joy in my arms as I held her up to put her hand right through the colorful display. The gift of the prism was here.
The other children cheered and raised their hands to the walls to be with the rainbows too. Most of them had not even known about the prism in the first place, but they were now fueled by it’s magic as well. The following week, DB came through the doors of the classroom with both parents and came right up to me saying, “Teacher Katee, teacher Katee, where’s that rainbow maker?! I wanna show my Mom and Dad!”. He showed them, said goodbye, and then immediately said to me, “I wanna hang more in the windows!” Well, I didn’t have any more prism on hand to hang, so I suggested maybe we find something else. I asked if he’d like to use some of our colored cellophane to hang instead.
Yes. He said yes, and everyone said yes. The cellophane moved from our light exploration in the studio to dangle in bits and pieces in the big front window. They children all buzzed around that morning, cutting, hole punching, and stringing the colorful plastics to be hung. And when the sun shone through, our walls and floors were spotted with pink, and blue, and yellow.
The seed had continued to grow in our indoor and outdoor classroom. We’ve made cellophane masks to see the world through, covered a trellis to be a stained-glass quilt, and started making larger hanging pieces with embroidery hoops.
What started as a tiny precious treasure has spiraled outward and welcomed everyone to bask in it. That little rainbow seed has grown a whole rainbow garden.