On the child

"Our image of the child is rich in potential, strong, powerful, competent and, most of all, connected to adults and other children." [loris malaguzzi]

Saturday, July 10, 2010


so what does an unemployed (going on a year but things are looking up! yay!) early childhood educator and girl who loves beautiful and wondrous things do to satisfy her need to discover and experience contemplative moments of wonder. well, there's the neighborhood nature walk - usually stealth ones around dusk with a bag in hand - while i collect random treasures from nature - the odd eucalyptus leaf, a fallen mossy branch, a prickly pod or two or three. there's 'dumpster diving', also known in the Bay Area as 'bulk trash day' - no need to actually swan dive head first into a smelly trash receptacle. there's the strange gifts from strangers - just last week, i scored about 100 gently used golf balls that were just sitting there in a box next to the parking space i happened to pull into. a perfect addition to a block building area, or material for a 'sink & float' activity.

and then there's my guilty pleasure - some people channel surf, but when you don't have cable and the mail carrier has not kept up the steady flow of little red envelopes and DVDs - then there's the FREE page on Craigslist. it is here that in the last six weeks, i have scored two great finds. the first, a trash bag filled with approximately 50 pounds of (totally sanitized) metal bottle caps. an instant collection or one step closer to starring in my own episode of a reality show? well, that's a topic for another day.

as an early childhood educator and atelierista, i was thrilled to find the posting for the bottle caps and even more excited to actually win the lottery and have the owner chose me as recipient of her largess. it made it so much better to know that she also is a teacher and that her son, now in high school, had been collecting the bottle caps since age 10.

now why do you ask would i go into a tizzy over a plain old bottle cap. well, besides the fact that there is something so charmingly old-fashioned about them, especially when they are from a soda bottle - as a child i used to collect little treasures, like bottle caps (in my case from Italian sparkling water), and remember sorting them, admiring them, counting them and squirreling them away with great pride. they were my treasures and they could not have been more precious or appreciated if they had been made of gold.

as an early childhood educator, over the years i have been experimenting with ways to replace stale, commercial and generic classroom materials with 'beautiful stuff' and open-ended materials that reminded me of my own childhood, and invite wonder and discovery. so why not offer a beautiful basket of bottle caps in a classroom as a material for sorting, matching, classifying and counting, and creating?

as a studio teacher, i have made bottle caps available for children to string, thread and wrap with wire. all it takes is a hammer and a nail for a child to make the perfect hole. and bottle caps turn out to be a very satisfying thing to nail onto things too. driving a nail into wood is great, but driving a nail through a bottle cap into a piece of wood (over and over again), is a whole other ball game!

this morning i meandered through oakland and berkeley, taking the 'scenic route' to go pick up another free craigslist find - a collection of treasures collected while beachcombing by an artist who (thumbs up to her!) was now letting go of some of her stuff. i had been looking forward for several days to getting my hands on this handy-me- down treasure. and what i conjured up in my imagination was just as good and satisfying as what i found in the shoebox the artist lovingly placed in my hands. she stopped to point out a few pieces - limpets, bright shiny green mussel shells, and the tiniest of treasures contained in a small ziplock bag. my best guess was that the small pointy white objects were the teeth of some lilliputian shark. when the artist opened up the bag, she cupped in the palm of her hand a miniscule white swan and she told me how her mother had first introduced her to one, so many years ago. the little swan turned out to be part of the inside of a crushed sand dollar. it wasn't much bigger than one the freckles on my arms, and could have passed for just an insignificant crumb, a speck of a nature. but what a gift, i was given, the glimpse of something magical. a beautiful white swan with its wings outstretched ready to take flight.

"Everything that happens in my day is a transaction between the external world and my internal world. Everthing is raw material. Everything is relevant. Everything is usable. Everything feeds into my creativity." [twila tharp]


  1. girl!i am with you on that journey. engaging one's creativity, imagination & resourcefulness - delightful and, i'd say, imperative ways of being for teachers and kids alike.

  2. @ betty: as the first to post a comment here (a few added their thoughts on facebook), you win the prize! that said, hmm, i am gonna have to come up with one! definitely involving a glass of wine and, how about, 100 beautiful bottle caps! XO


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