A View From Our Garden... SPACE edition 02
"We risk great peril if we kill off the spirit of adventure, for we cannot predict how and in what seemingly unrelated fields it will manifest itself. A nation that loses its forward thrust is in danger, and one of the most effective ways to retain that thrust is to keep exploring the possibilities of "Space." The sense of exploration is intimately bound up with human resolve, and for a nation to believe that it is still committed to a forward motion is to ensure its continuance."
- James Michener, Author
The peculiar thing about education is that sometimes it dumbs down curriculum to such a finite component, that even a theme can be limited by one perspective. "Space" means something different to all of us. When curriculum is being created, we as educators are responsible for considering all the possibilities that could lead to our students being more powerfully connected to its center core.
Curriculum written in a way that breaks down a theme or subject matter to represent only a fraction of the entire content, never circling back to introduce or discuss the other parts, is a costly oversight and missed opportunity for whole learning.
In all fairness, most of education does not purposefully do this; it is unconscious and slanted because of our own fears and arrogance. Research and well-meaning propaganda have drilled this educational platform and conflicting standard of success into our minds, throughout our life. As a society we react to this mindset, believing that as adults, we must have all of the answers and can teach children everything they need to know. While we do need to organize, coach and navigate how education is presented to children, the truth is that children need to be taught how to think. They must be empowered to cultivate and bring forth their own strengths and abilities to manage solutions, as a contributing member of society.
Children WILL get all of the information and standards the system is blindly shoving at them, but does it work...will they remember it? Will it inspire them? Will it ignite a fire in them to leave their profound mark on this world, or have we unknowingly stolen their sacred "space" to self- generate and create? Will they pursue the open frontier or react by shrinking back from the overwhelming flame of perfection?
A wholistic philosophy allows students to be included in their own education, no matter what their age. We are always blown away by the depth and complexity of the questions students ask. Their questions spark deeper, broader, more spacious, thematic conversations.
We co-create curriculum with our students as the theme progresses and ask for their feedback. This forum provides a "space" for their enlightening brainstorms. If education fails to do this, it teaches children that everything is fragmented and isolated and tragically they are taught that the part is the whole. Meaningful education then starts its disconnected, downward spiral, losing a lot of expensive learning real-estate, in the empty "space" of educational standards, that do not do an adequate job of measuring intelligence, creativity or academic comprehension.
When educators and students partner together with a theme, the theme begins to reflect in their lives, by way of their interactions and experiences. If we overlook this opportunity we limit a students' ability to successfully believe that what they care about or dream of matters. Once the light of inspired learning turns off in a student, they truly begin to believe that their personal contributions do not count.
What education needs to powerfully demonstrate is a pioneering spirit of boldness, where students are given the "space" and necessary tools to prepare and practice for whatever life puts before them. To go beyond what is known to what is possible, cognitively, emotionally, creatively and physically. To dip below the surface and fly past the stars and begin to grasp the link that broadens our scope and shows us how to understand the parts, so we can imagine and consider the continuous, unbroken wholes of the " big picture."
When we consider " Space," for example, educators often go directly to the obvious, "Outer Space." "Outer Space," though amazing and intriguing, is just one part of "space." There is so much more to consider. The theme of "Space" invites us to widen our field of vision and expand the limits of our world; inside, outside, down here and up there.
In a wholistic theme, "Space," also includes topics like "personal space," "physical space," and the "space in between." Some people dream of traveling to "outer space," always looking upward, others would never consider getting into a "spaceship" and being launched into the unknown. Some love nothing more than a deep, intimate conversation, where they search to uncover all the "space" in the hidden parts of themselves, while others will do anything humanly possible, to keep that " space" in the unknown parts, a mystery.
We do not question the stars, because we can see them. Astronauts do not question the surface of the moon, because they have walked on it. We are all explorers of something, adventurers and authors of some unknown; all we need is that frontier... that palate of " Space."
When I examine the saying, " widen our field of vision and expand the limits of our world," I am profoundly and urgently reminded that a field is an open expanse of "space."
"Space" gives us a sense of freedom... a clearing where we can connect with nature and all of its creation. It is a field, a place where we can clear our minds and release those things that clutter our heart. A field makes room for new visions, visions that collide with our imagination: a rejuvenating, serene and solitary field of beautiful dreams. A field that calls us to contemplate, question, invent and re- balance.
Children are genius brainstormers, their ideas flow like a mighty river, but just like adults, children need a field too, a field that they can have constant access to. A field where they can connect with all of their individual gifts and talents, a personal "space" to process all of the information and demands the world places on them. It is a field where they can peacefully reflect and joyfully release any stress. A field that invites them to discover what is inside of them and what is out there.
A field... a sanctuary " space " that is all their own!
"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
~ Viktor E. Frankl
In our daily lives as we encounter different situations, we have to learn how to resolve conflicts. This is probably one of the most challenging tasks as a human being.
When a person is facing a conflict, the tendency is to follow an instinictive, physiological response, where there is no time to think. It is an automated response to a conditional stimulus. All that is seen at that moment is aggression and the body becomes tense and wants to react. When the frustration level becomes high, it is difficult to choose any other way than to react to the situation and "defend" one's point of view. People often let their emotions overcome reasoning when they face a conflict with no overview of the consequences, nor an analysis of the other person's point of view. The outcomes in these circumstances can be unpredictable and possibly without an effective result.
When people become aware of the fact that they are facing a conflict, they have the choice to wait and give themselves space to weigh their options. Then, they can choose to practice responding, instead of reacting.
The space between the stimulus and the response is what offers us the opportunity to reflect and hear what is occurring at that moment. This can be a short period of time, but it will open up the door to manage thoughts and life with more clarity.
Learning to respond allows us to feel more freedom, less stress and as a consequence, more happiness. We as humans have the amazing gift of reason and we must take the opportunity to practice exercising this gift.
Living our life based on "reactive" responses limits us and shows us only a partial view of what could be an extraordinary life. We need to teach children at a young age, that the space between stimulus and response is essential for a life of freedom, responsibility and happiness.
Here at Garden, this is our stamp. We live by this practice. We utilize every situation, to show the children the importance of responding rather than reacting.
We teach our students to pause, giving them space and time to see the possibilities before they respond to a conflict. We encourage our students to take responsibility and choose the best option to manage the situation. Young children will generally react first, because they are young and it is not an intuitive choice to respond, it must be taught. As I said at the beginning of this essay, it is one of the most difficult tasks for all of us as social beings.
As role models, educators, parents, and coaches, we must become aware and understand the difference between "reacting" and "responding." This is most important because it allows us to grow and find meaning in our life. It will encourage our children to naturally create a generation that will be more evolved.
"Space, the Final Frontier. To boldly go where no man has gone before." -The Captain's Oath
This month our Pre-Kindergarten classes went on a fieldtrip to Griffith Park Observatory. Connecting to our monthly theme in October, "Space," the preschoolers were treated to an amazing space exhibit, as well as, telescopes,
a Tesla coil, meteorites and a real moon rock brought back on Apollo 18.
In addition to the outer space spectacular, we watched a captivating movie called "Water of Life," featuring the Earth's four essential elements. Our students were mesmerized as we sat in plush seats viewing the film on the dome-shaped ceiling. This is the old laserium room where guests were once treated to Pink Floyd's,
"The Wall. "
The Griffith Park fieldtrip was very educational. It is a must see for everyone in Los Angeles, a fabulous view from the top of the hill, overlooking the Hollywood sign and our beautiful city
This month our students meet "Great Minds" like Neil Armstrong, Galileo and Amelia Earhart. Connecting our theme of "Space," we practiced the moonwalk, made telescopes, learned about Galileo's spyglass and made airplanes out of Popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners.
One of our "Adventure Airways" countries is Russia who has contributed so much to space exploration. We introduced cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, the first man in orbit and talked about the space station that Russia built. We also had a Russian puppet show and foods a Russian feast.
Our students met "Amazing Artist" Vincent Van Gogh and painted their own versions of his Starry, Starry Night
The students set their musical voices to the song, "9 Little Planets," sung to the tune of "Ten Little Indians."
9 Little Planets
1 little 2 little 3 little planets
4 little 5 little 6 little planets
7 little 8 little 9 little planets
Orbit around the sun
Mercury, Venus and the Earth
Mars, Jupiter and Saturn
Uranus, Neptune, dwarf planet Pluto
Orbit around the sun
Creating a link between science, math, language, art and social emotional development is important for whole growth learning. Helping us bridge some of these areas of education is our remarkable science teacher, Jeff Hoover, "The Sultan of Science". He brings exciting experiments and an endless amount of knowledge to our preschool and TK-1 classrooms with energy and excitement for learning about science.
Science tells us to put our theories into practice and Jeff has demonstrated many ways to do that. Our students have learned about rocks and made their own with Epsom salt, water and sand.
They also learned about meteors and asteroids, and even touched a real piece of meteorite that crashed in Arizona.
The children formed craters utilizing a bowl of flour. They dropped an orange and a grape into the powder to simulate an impact crater.
Jeff showed pictures of comets and talked about what the celestial bodies are made of.
He showed us how centrifugal force works with a demonstration and learned about gravity and magnetic energy. But the most amazing display of all was the rocket!
Jeff built a rocket out of a water bottle and added the "fuel" to make it launch about 20 ft. in the air! All of these hands-on experiments were an exciting way to explore Space.
We encourage our young minds to think about the questions Space raises and come up with their own hypothesis. Space gives us so much to think about and raises so many questions, some we can answer; some we can not.
Pre-k teacher/Assistant Director
"I love you in a place where there is no Space or Time. I love you for my life. You are a friend of mine..."
- Leon Russell
Giving children the Space to connect and learn through their friendships is the most important learning tool. The values that children gain from these precious moments in time, will help prepare them for strong friendships in adulthood.
Garden of Angels has created the perfect Space for learning. We are caring for the children in an environment that is open to the joys and struggles of growing up.
Space is always an option, sometimes children want more and sometimes they want less.
A child needs to be comfortable in his or her creative Space. There are no rules of what Space should look like. We each have our own vision and comfort zone. There are children who can be in a room filled with toys all over the floor and music playing loudly in the background and yet, they are able to grab a book and go into their quiet space, fully content with their surroundings.
Then there are children that need peace and quiet with no distractions, in order for them to be able to concentrate and relax. Others need to be engaged in a conversation with their friends, in order to feed their need of direct connection to Space.
Garden of Angels has a philosophy pertaining to the whole child. Space is one of the biggest lessons we support. We recognize our students' need for Space and assist them through this process, which adds to their pocket full of life tools.
Giving the children these valuable opportunities will help transform them into caring, listening, loving souls; friends who care about their environment and understand the needs of others.