“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” -- Albert Einstein
One of the many things that makes Nueva unique is something that even eighth graders have often commented on in their graduation speeches -- that Nueva students never seem to lose their sense of wonder, of joy in learning, of pleasure in discovery. One eighth grader even noted that instead of learning to "play sick" to stay home from school, Nueva students learn to "play well," so they won't have to miss a day.
How is this accomplished? Of course there are many important pieces of this puzzle throughout the school, but it surely begins in early childhood. A recent blog post by Heather, one of our kindergarten teachers, may begin to explain how education can begin in joy and proceed in wonder.
In the movie Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, Mr. Magorium meets his friend Mahoney and they are off to start an exciting day, full of wonder-filled adventures. As he greets his friend, he slaps his legs and proclaims, “pants!”
“What about them?” Mahoney asks, a bit confused by his enthusiasm.
“Nothing. Just PANTS!” he answers with passion.
I love this scene because it reminds me of a kindergartener’s passion and imagination. It reminds me how for children the ordinary can be extraordinary. Pants may not be “just” pants -- bubbles are not just bubbles; leaves are not just leaves; rainbows are certainly not just rainbows, and outer space is just a treasure chest for imagination.
Their eyes are new. They are wondering about things, for the first time. They are capable of both understanding and imagining. They are creating new knowledge and ideas. Pants aren’t “just” pants, they are PANTS!
By watching this scene, I am also reminded of the extraordinary opportunity that I have -- to witness the passion and wonderment of my students each day. My responsibility is to foster their imaginations. Every day I encourage my students not only to see the world, but to imagine it. I nurture their sense of wonder and hope to turn them into Wonder Aficionados. In the process, I hope to make them smile and laugh each day. I hope that my students will slap their legs and yell, “PANTS!” at a world of people that far too often have had passion, wonder, and imagination trained out of them.
Noticing Me: Not “just” me, but ME!
On the first day of school, the students painted self-portraits, so as to explore the basic question: Who am I? We asked the students to study their face in hand-held mirrors and notice the little things that make them unique. We encouraged the students not to see their mouth, nose, eye, etc. as “just” a mouth, nose, or eye, but rather as a distinctive part of their uniqueness. As they studied their faces more in depth, they began to respond and say, “my mouth isn’t just a mouth, it is a shape. My nose isn’t just a nose, it has color. My eye isn’t just an eye, it is symmetrical.”
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A time to build friendships.
A time to discover interdisciplinary connections.
A time to imagine and create.
A time to wonder.
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