Monthly Archives: May 2011

Children make their presence felt

Monday the 2nd of May did not quite end the way I said it did in my previous blog. In fact the best thing about the day was yet to be. I had communicated my desire to visit a certain pre-school, to the head teacher there. She and I belong to the same list-serv or discussion group, and I have always admired Leslie Gleim’s passion, and her words through her posts have deeply influenced me over the past few years. When I heard the WoFo was going to be in Hawaii, the first thought that occurred to me is – “Oh maybe I’ll get to meet Leslie and see her school!”.

That dream came true Monday evening. Leslie very graciously invited me and a few others from the list-serv into her school. I extended her grace by taking along a few members from World Play [with her consent of course]. In retrospect this was a good plan, I not only had company but we shared a cab to go up to The Mid Pacific Institute which the pre-school was a part of.

Soon after we alighted from the cab the head of elementary school came and greeted us and walked us to the pre-school where Leslie and her team of teachers and parents were waiting. The school was everything and more I expected a Reggio Emilia inspired school would be. There was plenty of evidence of the projects children were working on. There were samples of work by the children laid out for us to see, and soon after being guided through the facility by both the staff and parents of children, who stayed back long after their school hours just for us, we sat down for our conversation.

The conversation revolved around the children, their interest, learning,

A mermaids garden created by the children which houses fish with names such as: surprise surprise - Ariel and Flounder.

and projects they had worked on. The fact that they were right in the midst of their Beach project, [children found stagnant and possibly contaminated water being released into the sea and wanted to take action to warn the community – and for this they were soon to gain an audience with the mayor!], was very exciting. Will they get to meet the mayor and what will be the outcome of the meeting was certainly on everyone’s mind. Please read more here.

http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2011/05/04/10728-preschoolers-demand-to-see-honolulu-mayor/

and

http://thehawaiiindependent.com/blogs/ikaikahussey/preschoolers-teach-us-about-becoming-active-citizens

That evening as we visitors from around the globe sat on child sized chairs, and listened to the voices of our hosts from the MPI, the electricity had failed; an unusual occurrence we were told. Candle lights and some dim lights provided by the generator came on. Soon there was a thunder shower, another unusual occurrence especially for that time of the year. It was almost as if the heavens wanted to do their bit, providing a powerful back drop for our dialogues and etching the memory of the evening even deeper in our consciousness.

Our hosts sheltered us with their umbrellas taking us from one end of the precinct to another and they even ended up driving us back to our hotel, because no taxis would come in a thunderstorm at that time of the evening. There was something surreal about the entire evening, even the depth of thoughtfulness and warmth our hosts provided. All of them touched our hearts deeply and I can’t ever imagine forgetting any of them ever. Yet the strongest presence I felt that evening was the voices of the children, even without them being in the room with us. I carry memories of the outdoor atelier [the beach where they work and play a lot] even without having an opportunity to see it, I carry palpabale memories of their laughter, of their questions, of their thinking and learning; such was the power of the documentation the adults shared with us.


One of a Kind – David Elkind

So after spending the first two days, just wandering around and thinking through my presentation etc I connected with some of the early arrivals at the World Forum. The WoFo office was bustling with activities in preparation and I offered to help by putting some of the portfolios together etc and shared some easy banter with the organizers. It was absolutely wonderful to be part of the behind the scenes work even if it was for a short while – just to get a feel of what it takes to put something as huge as the WoFo together.

Bonnie and Roger seemed so down to earth, one would not be blamed to assume that they haven’t a sense of the impact they are creating world-wide, but I am sure they know and that is part of the reason they can take on this daunting but priceless task. Please read more about the WoFo http://worldforumfoundation.org/wf/wp/

This was the morning of Saturday, I took off on my own in the afternoon and explored the island, going to the museums and checking out the shopping in Waikiki. Late Saturday was the first session on Play which continued into the next two days.

The work and advocacy of WoFo is undertaken largely by working groups, there are working groups by now for Children in Indigeneous Families, Children living with Aids, Rights of the Child, The Nature Action Group, Men in Early Childhood Education etc and now ‘Children and Play’. Being an early arrivee [I liked that word I just made up] I signed up for the group on play. Its one of the newest groups and it needed a lot of work, including coming up with its mission and vision statement and a logo, let alone decide on what its key initiatives would be over the course of the next 2 years, before we convene for the next WoFo.

The work cut out for our group was so stressful that the group would break away every now and then to go and play in the beach! No seriously that was part of the agenda of the group. I am proud to say we came up with a mission and vision statement and have decided to call our group World Play. More on this in later blogs but I have to share this story.

Monday morning the session started nice and early at 8.30 a.m. after an All Working Groups Meeting and Reception the previous evening. As we settled into our seats and started our discussions I saw author Susan Linn [ http://www.consumingkids.com/bio.htm ] say to someday who walked in and say “Hi David I thought you were coming in for the third session not the first one”, and this gentleman remark “Oh I thought it was the first session”. I turned to read his name card and it said David Elkind.[ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Elkind ] I found the usually animated and vocal me turn completely tongue tied. Folks this was the David Elkind, the man who wrote The Hurried Child and many other works we EC Educators hold so close to our hearts.

As usuual the inimitable David had things to say that touched our hearts and minds. He talked about the constant struggle between perceived economic values and human values. He said invariably leaders only understand the economic values and pursue them to the cost of human values. Much of what he said I could link to in my presentation later in the week.

After the session I walked up to him and asked for a photograph to be taken with him. This is what I said, “I don’t normally do this [lies], but I speak about your work all the time to my students [truth], and now on when I speak about you, I need to be able to prove to them that I actually met you [stretching the truth]”. What was most endearing was, after the picture was taken I turned around and saw him turn as red as beet. What a remarkably humble and understated person, I just wish I could’ve spent the rest of the days listening to him but there were other big fish to catch too.

Monday evening we all went to bed early in anticipation of the arrival of the rest of the participants and the many Guided Tours that were organized for us early next day. More about that in my next blog.