Community in the Owl Class

By Tina Leonard | Brevard, NC

When considering the Owl Class, often the word community comes to mind. The children in their growing are not only learning about themselves as individuals but also about themselves as members of a community. They are very aware of one another and their surroundings. They notice when someone is absent from school or if there is something different about the classroom. When sitting together during Gathering Time, the children collectively are able to name any child that is missing from the classroom on that given day. They recognize one another not only visually, but also by the sound of one another’s voices. Recently, we enjoyed an activity from The Peaceful Classroom by Charles A. Smith, PhD. In this activity, a child sits in a chair with her back to the class and behind her there is an empty chair. I silently motion for a child to sit in the empty chair and then to say, “Knock, Knock. Can you guess who I am?” Almost every time, the child was able to identify the other child by his voice alone.

The Owl Class’ sense of community is extended further when they participate in Community Centering each week. Not only is it a wonderfully courageous opportunity to practice public speaking (the children are offered an opportunity to speak about something from their class to the entire school), but it is also a moment to recognize that they are part of something even bigger than their Owl Class community.

Another extension of community is naturally to venture out into the bigger community of Brevard. With that, it also encourages the idea that learning can happen anywhere and from others; community and learning aren’t limited only to the Owl Classroom. And so the quest is to find ways to bring the Owl Class out into that bigger community and to incorporate the idea of Community Service. One of the Owl Class’ favorite field trips is to Care Partners where elders from our community are gathered together for various reasons for the day. The children of the Owl Class are encouraged to think of themselves as sharing gifts with our elders when they visit by giving the gift of a smile, the gift of their singing and talking voices.

While at Care Partners, the children also create a craft with the intention behind this shared activity being to help with any awkwardness or shyness that the children may initially feel while around the elders. For some of our young ones this may be the only time that they are with older people as their own grandparents may live far away. And at the same time, it may be that for some of our elders their grandchildren are not near by for visits. It is a gift for both the young and old. As much as this experience helps to broaden the children’s sense of community, there is another far reaching learning lesson from this adventure as conveyed by this online article from The Atlantic titled “The Preschool Inside a Nursing Home” by Tiffany R. Jansen is that the children visiting these elders “are prone to feel more comfortable around those with disabilities and impairments of all kinds than their peers who lack such experiences.”

It is a delight to think about how excited the Owl Class is when going to Care Partners. Another treasure from these journeys is that the children have opportunities to practice being altruistic which is still very intrinsic for them. The children do not walk away with candy or gifts as a bribe or a reward for their Community Service. As they share their feelings afterwards, they walk away simply feeling happy.

 

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