This week, the shops lost momentum. but the idea of community still persevered. Anna came in to share with us about her experience at a refugee camp in Mexico this past summer. The children already had some background knowledge about refugees as we explored ways to help those who were entering Fort Lee this fall to start to rebuild their lives in the United States. Anna shared with us the refugees' struggles and hopes to reach the United States. She shared with us that many of the families bartered and traded their services to be able to function as a community to ensure all members' needs were met. Women volunteered to teach the children as there were no options for other education, a tortilla factory was created to feed families, and other goods and services were exchanged to meet the demands of this community. They had little to offer monetarily, but could offer much more in others ways.
The following day, we invited the children to share their thoughts about the idea of community. Many of them used Anna's experience as a stepping stone for this larger idea of what it means to be in a community. The ideas that surfaced through this dialogue included:
-houses and the need for building houses
-food and the need for plants and gardens
-animals and the need for what they can provide
-the idea of communities only being people
-the idea of communities being other animals that are alike
-perspective when animals and humans are in the same community
We started to reflect on how we work as a community within our classroom walls. The children's first connection was to the shops that were created from the small ones to the global ones in the Garden. We dug deeper into this idea. We talked about how we take care of each other throughout the day. The ideas started to flow...
-when people are sick, we use the First Aid bag or take them to Page.
-when there are sticky situations, we have conversations with friends and can ask a teacher to help facilitate those moments when they are really tough.
-ask to join plans
I noticed that their ideas about our classroom community centered around emotional well-being as oppose to Anna's community experience that focused on basic needs for survival (housing and food). These two communities are in different places on Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
The next day, we started to discuss each other's strengths in our classroom community. We made a list of each member's expertise. Some friends shared what strengths they thought other classmate's possessed while others shared what they believed to be their gift to the community.
We shared with the children that when adults have an expertise, many times, they create business cards to share with others in the community for how they can offer a service or a good to support them. We invited the children to create business cards to share with others in the classroom. A few children asked if we could copy them so they could have a supply to pass out.
As I am writing this post and reflecting on the happenings from the past few months, I can't help but wonder if the Nature Shops were simply an avenue to allow for this community to be built and skills developed and noticed. Was community building bigger than joy? Was joy just the result from it all? I am not sure. What I do know is that these children are understanding the value of being in a community and the happiness it can bring.
Some random facts about me...