The psychologist Alfred Adler believed that the primary goal of all human behavior is social belonging. Young children often try on roles to see how others react. “Will this help me belong?” As teachers we want the children to find the connection between kindness and belonging. These past weeks, as we dip into and out of spring, we’ve also been digging a little deeper into what it looks like to be kind and how it feels to be included or excluded.
Books are one of the great ways to get the wheels turning in children’s minds and spark conversations. We read two great books about bullying and belonging this week. In Willow Finds a Way, Willow has to learn to stand up to a classmate who is using her birthday party list to manipulate friends. In One by Kathryn Otoshi, RED bullies all the other colors to make himself feel big, until 1 comes along. When we returned to our chapter book, The Night Fairy, Flory gave us lots of opportunities to talk about prejudice, grudges, manipulation and (eventually) finding forgiveness and kindness in your heart.
I have found it interesting to see how much the environment affects the way the children interact with each other. At Hilltop Home, they know every nook and cranny of those woods. They have well worn paths and stomping grounds. They make bee-lines to their current projects or favorite activities. They find their friends and fall right into play. As teachers we can tweak the environment by bringing in new items or digging out forgotten ones. We often don’t have to say anything – just put something new out, and suddenly new ideas emerge, the play changes course, and children connect in new ways.
Adults can also purposefully scaffold children’s play and learning, through questions and planted ideas. Scaffolding brings what the children are doing naturally to the next level.
When we go exploring, the focus is different. The children’s attention is on the newness of the environment, on discovery. What’s over here? What can I do here? Their attention on their peers is focused on what friends may have discovered in this new place. It takes a while for them to turn back towards each other in play. The setting is too new. The new place is like a new character they have to get to know.
Now of course, there are not many places at Woodend that the Oaks have not explored…but we’ll still find some. After a few visits The Far Corner is already becoming a comfortable friend. After checking on the fox den (they are still digging), it was time to turn the children towards each other. So this week, we brought a few props. Digging tools, a bucket and a rope. The excavators got to work making the tree cave a little bigger.
Of course, it’s not yet too comfortable. With the addition of a headlamp, two more children made it all the way through the log tunnel. And a few more can now climb in and out of the tree cave independently.
We returned this week to one of our autumn haunts, the garden. We harvested compost, found compost critters, and prepared a garden bed for planting next week..when spring will hopefully be here for good!
Physical challenges continue to attract and bring the children together. We never need to set up an obstacle course – the children do it for themselves!
While we want the children to feel connected, we also honor their need for alone time. Part of belonging is also having a sense of self – knowing how you are unique and special.
Today, we’re heading off to explore The Other Side (Aka Woodend on the other side of Jones Mill) and all the way to Rock Creek. Going on an adventure with a destination that feels farther or more challenging is another way to bond. We are all in this together.
Songs for February and March
Loving Kindness Song
May (I, you, we) be happy, may we be well.
May we be safe and sound.
May we be peaceful, may we be at ease.
With love in our hearts and all around.
Spring is Here (to tune of Frere Jacques)
I see robins,
I see birds nests,
Everything is growing,
The wind is gently blowing.
Spring is here, spring is here.
Spring waits in the wings
Out of the Earth, overnight,
One perfect Snowdrop.
Winds of March, we welcome you,
There is work for you to do.
Work and play and blow all day,
Blow the winter cold away.
Books we’ve read
The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz
Willow Finds a Way by Lana Button
One by Kathryn Otoshi