By: Dawn Irwin
Picture this - while sitting in a café chatting with friends, you find yourself admiring some artwork displayed on the walls. Upon further investigation, you realize these incredible pieces of art were created by some students at one of the local early childhood education programs. You find yourself blown away by the beauty, creativity, and intentionality that is infused in each piece. You didn't even realize children that young were capable of this kind of artistry.
Ever since Growing With Wonder was just a dream inside of my head, I have always imagined a world in which we create community partnerships. A world where folks celebrate the youngest members of our society. Local businesses that are willing to welcome children and families into the fold in a way that benefits everyone involved. Citizens engaging with students' work, learning right alongside them. A community that understands the important role our future leaders play in the health and well-being of their town. People invested in creating the most supportive environment possible for our littles. A community that not only appreciates the children they care for, but also recognizes and respects them as the researchers, artists, and teachers they are.
As a Reggio Emilia inspired school, I have seen so many examples of the people from Reggio Emilia highlighting and elevating the work of their youngest citizens in a way that is usually reserved for adults. It is very common to walk into a coffee shop or restaurant in Reggio Emilia and see its walls, windows, and shelves displaying paintings, sculptures, drawings, writings, and documentation created by early education students at the local schools. The community understands and acknowledges that the children are the heart and soul of their city. If they want Reggio Emilia to thrive, it is imperative that all of their children are thriving. One way they accomplish this is by treating their children's work with as much clout and respect as they would for the adults because the citizens of Reggio Emilia understand that it IS just as important, if not more important than the work of the adults. They believe that their children are valuable members of their society and treat them as such. The adults think of their work as real and important pieces of art. They see the students as critical contributors to their community. And, since all of the grownups believe in them, the children believe in themselves too.
And, now, Growing With Wonder is starting to create our own Community Connections. Our teacher, Haley Rockwood, has been spearheading our Community Outreach. She's been reaching out to local businesses to start fostering relationships and find ways to celebrate our students out in the community. Because of her hard work, she has created our first Community Connection! Island Ice Cream, located in Williston, has enthusiastically agreed to showcase some of our students' amazing artwork!
Since the beginning of the year, our students have been working on an art project we are calling Collaborative Canvases. Haley wrote a description of the children's work that is hung at Island Ice Cream alongside the canvases:
"Growing With Wonder, located in Essex Junction, is a multi age school (ages 0-5) that encourages every child to create and explore our play based learning environment. We paint, draw, collage, print and use all types of different mediums when working on our collaborative canvases. Our community of proud artists work together, layer by layer, adding dimension to each canvas.
We believe that the process of creating is just as important as the final product. The importance of collaborative art helps self expression, teamwork, improves self-esteem, processing emotions, and gives children a grasp on color theory, and a supportive environment for exploration. Each child from our school has added their own unique style to these beautiful canvases. We hope our on going pieces of art inspire you to create and collaborate with others."
We invite you, your family, friends, colleagues to go to Island Ice Cream, enjoy some delicious treats, and admire the truly magnificent artwork that will be on display for the next couple of months. We hope they will bring you as much joy as it does for us!
We are Early Childhood Educators that consider introspection and reflection valuable tools that help us become the best teachers we can be. Please enjoy reading all about our adventures inside and outside of our classroom!