Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Regarding the Spirit of Children

Give a little love to a child, and you get a great deal back
-- John Ruskin

Do me a favor, would you? Click on the photo and take a few minutes to look at it. What do you see? This collection of oddments, bookmarks, photos, pieces of candy, and, yes, even a baggie filled with Jell-O represents souvenirs collected during an evening spent at Kara's school, the culmination of an interesting assignment that I thought I'd share.

The assignment was called "The Night of Notables." Each child picked a historical figure, researched them, and then developed a series of questions and answers. The child created a costume so they could dress as the selected person and then created a display board that displayed their questions next to "buttons" waiting to be pressed. When a button was pressed, the child would recite the answer to the corresponding question as if they were a wax replica of the selected person. If you listened to enough questions, the child would present you with a souvenir to remind you of the person you learned about.

The souveniers in the photo represent (in no particular order):

  • Achilles, Hero of the Trojan War
  • Alexander the Great (a piece from the Gordian Knot)
  • Anne Sullivan (the teacher of Helen Keller)
  • Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile
  • Ellen Richards, first woman admitted to MIT
  • King Leonis of Sparta
  • Lady Diana (Spencer), Princess of Wales
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of Little House on the Prairie
  • Leonardo Da Vinci, artist, architect, and more.
  • Mohandas Gandhi, pioneer of non-violent resistance.
  • Nostradamus, prophet.
  • Peter Cooper, credited by some as the "inventor" of Jell-O
  • Pocahontas, rescuer of John Smith,
  • Sir Winston Churchill, aka The British Bulldog (and famed cigar smoker).
  • Thomas Jefferson
And these were only the presentations with souveniers; I also heard presentations from Amelia Earhart, Meriwether Lewis, Robert the Bruce (including a critique of the inaccuracies of the film Braveheart), Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Erwin Rommel (aka The Desert Fox), George Washington, and even Saint Peter (as in, yeah, the guy at the Pearly Gates).

It was an entertaining...and fascinating set of presentations, though I have to confess I barely heard a word in twenty due to the noise. With so many conversations taking place in a confined space, understanding what was being said was difficult at best. It was frustrating, because I wanted to know what they had learned about people I knew a lot about, as well as those I wasn't so familiar with.

So I paid attention to the child making the presentation. I crouched down so I could hear as much as possible and watched as they gave their answers or read them from cheat sheets "disguised" as books, letters, etc. (I think I was the only adult who actively tried to listen to them at their level.)

As you might expect, I saw a variety of presentation styles and comfort levels with public speaking. Some children would look me in the eye as they tried to work through their memorized pitches and some would shyly look at the floor, as if to hint that they'd rather be anywhere else at the moment.

I recognized in each one, though, a passion in their chosen individual. A hope, a spark, a light showing confidence in their future...yes, even in the ones that wouldn't meet my eyes. It was an inspiring...and even rejuvenating experience in some ways. "Here," I thought, "are the notables of tomorrow and I get to experience the beginnings of the changes they will bring to the world." I felt honored...and humbled.

And it reminded me why I love being a parent. Because children remind us, as long as they still possess it, that innocence has power...and faith...and, well, hope. A child, perhaps, may be the only one who is still able to open Pandora's box and release the remaining contents into the world.

These children are at the cusp of adolescence. They are not yet teenagers and they are no longer little kids. There is the beginnings of experience and wisdom in their eyes.

I think the greatest sin is to bring pain to a child...and I think one of the greatest comforts lie in the love of a child.

We should listen carefully to our children, for they see things more clearly than we do sometimes.


Photo credit: me

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Blogger Whitesnake said...

any fule kno dat!

1:54 PM  

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