Greeting and Friendship. The first week of school is the right time to get acquainted and make friends. We practiced ways to make friends, to take care of and not hurt each other, and to make friends not enemies. We asked, “Who are our friends?” The children walked around the school to get to know the people, places, toys, plants and animals at school. Oh, they’re our friends too! We were very proud when children did not pick the flowers or leaves because they wanted to love them as their friends. Or when meeting spiders, leaf worms or even ants, they didn’t rush to kill or get rid of them. They also reminded each other not to use excessive water. Attending school can be a challenge for some children, especially the new, young children. They may cry a lot. So the first week we helped them get to know and make friendships with themselves and their teachers. We got reacquainted with the materials and the new play spaces–indoors and outdoors.
Mutual Agreements. Fair is one word in our agreements: how to be fair with friends and with nature. To be fair, we need to find out what is needed. So we explored the school environment to find out what our friends needs are. Plants need water. Humans need water, too. So do animals and compost. If all of us need water, what does water need? Water needs to be cared for so it does not run off into waste. Afterwards, we collected the water used to wash hands and toys to be able to water the plants. The Rose Group of youngest children really liked to play with water. They didn’t want to turn off the tap, so many of them said, “use enough, so we can share the rest,” to remind their friends. It was fun!
Place Agreements. Nanik added lyrics to the mutual agreement song, so that the song felt refreshed. “Remember our agreement. Come on, don’t forget. Remember, keep on trying / to care for all of usl Be caring and loving / polite and patient / listen / speak softly / and use your words. / Make decisions / clean up / and be enthusiastic / with great cheer. The children use these words they hear and work to understand them.
Affirmation. The Jasmine and Orchid groups paired up and took turns sharing the good they have. They also roamed the school to point out the goodness in the objects and write them down and give positive names to the objects. Comforting cots, polite schools, smart libraries, soft voices, lovely ponds, cool composter and many more. Unfortunately, we missed making an affirmation poster for the school, but we did it in the last week of the theme.
A story of the power of affirmation: Belva refused to sit beside Devin. “Devin likes to whine, I don’t like it,” Belva said. I sat near Belva and asked, “What are Devin’s good points?” Belva repeated, “Devin likes to whine.” At that moment Devin was cleaning up the scattered number puzzle. Belva looked and said, “Devin likes to help his friends clean up!” Amazingly, after that they now sit side by side and talk frequently.
Conscience. In the opening circle, we said our name and what I enjoyed doing at home. We remembered when we felt fully alive and happy. We talked about the love and conscience within our core selves and drew our core selves with colorful paint. The results were amazing. The drawings felt strong and beautiful. From this topic, many children became familiar with emotional expressions for sadness, fear, anger and joy. They played with expression faces, guessed expressions and drew emotions in their journals. Amazing results appeared in the children’s journals. They became able to draw expressions and talk about those emotions. Great!
Transforming Power. At first we thought this was too difficult and abstract a topic to introduce to children. We needed the consultation with Nadine and Kins to translate this topic into concrete children’s activities. We played with pictures that showed the power of kindness. We matched them and talked about what we liked the most, and told those stories. We talked about the power of goodness to change ourselves and situations. We read the books: “Elephants Say Excuse Me,” “Naura Says Sorry,” “Naura Says Please,” and “Naura Says Thank you” to introduce opportunities to do use the power of goodness to change your situation. Children love to destroy things and then to rebuild them. The Rose Group of youngest children repeatedly built up the cardboard high and then crushed it together. Then rebuilt it. Their laughter broke out when the cardboard boxes fell apart. Then they talked about the power we have to destroy and to rebuild. The Orchid Group of older students made pinwheels with our agreements for goodness on each part and the wind of the goodness of life blows it around when we offer to do these parts, an idea we learned from Kim Cho-Nyon at AVP-International in Nepal 2017.
Communication. We practiced stopping, listening and not interrupting. These are big challenges for children, but they practiced well. Children with higher development worked in pairs to take turns talking about things they liked. During this topic, we began preparing for the end-of-the-theme exhibition by discussing what we wanted to communicate to our families about what we are learning. Many children and teachers got heat stroke and sick in the first few weeks heat from the lack of shade. But by this week the outdoors learning centers were more prepared, play places arranged, and activity materials provided. More energy was conserved and the children were calmer and more settled.
Cooperation. Children often report to the teacher when they see a problem. But we wondered, can the children solve their own problems with their friends? And surprisingly they were able to do that! They learned to sit with their friends as they cried and to talk to their friends after they finished crying. They worked together to prepare parts for the exhibition, solved problems together as they arose, and some children even learned to act as mediators.
Top off the Theme. On the eighth week, we recalled all the activities we had done. We prepared and combined all the parts of the exhibition for our families and friends. Children practiced leading the event and made a poster of kindness and decorated their pictures of conscience (core self).
On Friday, September 6, 2019 at 15.30 the exhibition of the results began and was attended by 13 children and their families.
We experienced eight great weeks. Both the teachers and the children practiced together to learn about a sustainable culture of peace. Most impressive was that children began to use the vocabulary introduced in accord with the context. They really liked playing outdoors. If they can choose they always choose to play outside. We will continue to develop our themes–the next one is A Book About Myself–integrating peace, permaculture and early childhood learning. Using both the indoors and outdoors and following a curriculum with multiple steps over time culminating in a product are both huge new developmental activities for the teachers. The parents are startled–what is happening here? They want to know more about the next theme and how they can be more involved. Completing more permanent structures outdoors to store materials and run activities will be essential to sustain this new curriculum.