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]

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


I grew up Catholic, raised by an American equal-opportunity Protestant mother and an Italian father in a village in the countryside between Milan and Lake Como in a country where my mother had no choice but to sign away her children’s spiritual upbringing to the omnipotent and omnipresent state church or face not only the eternal wrath of a pre-Vatican II god but the public shame of being the only foreign alien and Protestant in a very close-knit but often-times judgmental community.

At age 16, much to my father’s disappointment but also thanks to his understanding and acceptance of me as a thinking individual, I liberated myself from the shackles of what I understood Catholicism to be (a religion that as it was taught to me, made me believe until my early teen years, that it was a mortal sin to see a nun without her veil) and forged ahead finding my own spiritual path. I have always had an interest (perhaps pre-ordained) in world religions – a true fascination with the stories, traditions and histories they encompass. One of my very first thrift store finds was as a young teen when I scored a hardcover vintag-y set of books about the major religions of the world. Later in college I took several courses on the history of religion, and now much to my surprise read books on incorporating mediation, mindfulness and other Buddhist techniques into my teaching and life. Oh and one last confession, when I once stood next to the Dalai Lama in the lobby of the National Press Building in Washington DC (where I worked at the time for one of the leading Italian newspapers) I felt like I was standing next to a true “rock star” (albeit one is a saffron and terracotta robe who sported multiple Swatch watches on his wrist.)

These days I worship much more regularly at another altar, that of the Gods of Thrift and Re-Use. Just in this past year, these deities have gifted me with remarkable finds on my own city block (actually, most of these treasures were outside my very apartment building!): a box of 50+ gently used golf balls; two medium sized wooden electric cable spools; 2 decorative bird houses for a friend’s school garden; a perfectly pristine wood-framed bulletin board; several family- and kid-centric board games; one amazing willow reed trunk; much of my summer reading list in practically untouched quality paperbacks; mason jars galore; perfect wooden storage boxes; just to name a few of the many gifts!

I don’t often plug much that is commercial and/or corporate, but for those of you out there in the land of early childhood education who are visual thinkers and collectors of photographic inspirations for your classroom practice, then I encourage you to check out Pinterest. This fairly new site bills itself as a “virtual pinboard.” The site goes on to explain that “Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.”

One recent weekend morning I watched one of my BBFs and ECE compadres make her first foray into the amazing visual imagery world that is Pinterest. As I watched her face light up with pure bliss and heard her make sounds I imagine only her husband is usually privy too, it became clear that she was experience what will hence forth be know as a “Pin-gasm.” Feel free to check out some of my boards at http://pinterest.com/mia_cavalca/ I would be thrilled to engage in dialogue with any of my readers about some of the ideas I have gathered for the classroom, atelier and outdoor spaces.

Happy “pinning” and happy worshiping at the altars of thrift and re-use!

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