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At the End of the Day...

“…and at the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy, and your eyes sparkling.” Shanti

I wish there had been schools like HPUMP when I was young: a place where I could spend as long as I wanted or needed with a chosen task; a place where art experiences went beyond step-by-step assemblage of construction paper and glue sticks and, instead, allowed me to work as deeply as I wanted in messy, earthy clay; a place where my thoughts and ideas were recognized, recorded, and truly valued.

Most of us did not have that opportunity growing up, and the pleasure and gift of contributing to that sort of experience for children today often overwhelms me with gratitude.

Recently, a classroom of children was introduced to a 25 pound block of clay in its entirety. This is a common and powerful way to present this medium to young children, but it is far from ordinary or casual. This group of children, in particular, expressed the belief that somewhere inside that huge lump of clay a mystery object might be found.

The children eagerly grabbed handfuls of the clay, digging their fingers in and dragging bits away from the large block. When it became clear to them that this was going to be a long process, they began to use the wire cutter to peel off slabs of clay. They found nothing.

This might be the place where you and I, having existed in the adult world of fact and logic for so long, would come to the conclusion that there is nothing in the clay, or we would have found it already. Right?

Maybe, maybe not. Though the children completely destroyed the lump of clay and found nothing, most still held strong to the possibility of something to be discovered. They were undaunted.

Even after almost an hour with an absence of tangible treasure, the children ended this encounter exuberant and messy, clay under their nails, minds full of story and adventure.

This. THIS is the gift of working in an intentional way with young children: an abundance of magical thinking, a reminder that not everything is logical and predictable, an invitation to imagine that ANYTHING is possible.

These young people teach me something every single day. At the end of the day, I cannot and do not take that gift for granted.

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