In his classic work Emile, Rousseau wrote: “Childhood has its own way of seeing, thinking and feeling and nothing is more foolish than to try to substitute ours for theirs”.
This week at Bixby School I had glimpses into the world of our students through my office window. A short explanation may be necessary here: Rather than facing any of our outside spaces, my office has a window that overlooks one of our indoor community spaces, the community room where lunch, assembly, sports, free time, electives and even some of our community events take place.
Earlier this week three students from our second grade class, knocked on my window, which I keep ajar, to ask me if I had any purple ice cream. “Your window looks a lot like the ice cream truck window”, I was told. I obliged and soon handed out three delicious, albeit invisible, ice cream cones.
A few hours later our third , fourth and fifth graders arrived and had lunch under twinkling strings of lights and silver stars (fundraiser decorations that we had kept up for the children to enjoy for a few days) . As I looked up from a busy day at the desk, I caught a glimpse of two students who told each other that this lunch was “definitely like astronauts must feel when they eat under the stars”. When I asked them where else their space journey might take them that day, their eyes lit up and they replied “Probably all the way to the end of the universe because lower yard (our outdoor climbing playground) might just reach high enough to get us there”.
By mid-week my ice cream window had started to gain community interest. I served purple, blue and a very rare pink ice cream with silver swirls to an excited group of six students who thanked me profusely and promised to return next week.
On Thursday, our Kindergarten class was embarking on a culinary adventure when one of our amazing parent volunteers, Rachel, and our two Kindergarten teachers Lisa and Lexie, embarked on baking together. Beautiful creations of small loaves of bread complete with colorful decorations emerged. A student who was visiting our Kindergarten class that day said: “My favorite part was that I got to decorate the bread the way I wanted to and I get to eat it with my family and I made it! I like that you have a whole bakery here”.
Finally, as the week came to a close, our school community gathered in the community space outside my window for our all-school assembly. Our fifth graders had returned from an overnight class trip to Calwood earlier in the day. As Admissions Director in our school, I had returned from a day at an ACIS workshop in Denver with our Preschool Director Emily. I had a few tasks to finish before leaving the office and while the school week came to a close right outside my window, I overheard the not-so-faint sound of “Ode to Joy” being played on the recorder in our community room. I smiled as I realized that a few teachers were standing in the hall and commented that the whole school knew by now that this student was working hard to practice this piece. And oh was he practicing! As a matter of fact he had played the recorder both before and after school for the past two weeks to practice this particularly challenging song. By the time I was ready to leave, a small group of students and one parent had gathered around the student and his recorder. When I asked this young musician why he liked practicing his recorder at Bixby School, he replied matter-of-factly: “Because our community room is the biggest concert hall I have ever played in and it makes me feel like I am getting ready to play for the world some day. “
I love our children’s imagination, plans and dreams. For now, I am looking forward to serving invisible ice cream, hearing of astronaut adventures, and applauding for concerts at our Bixby concert hall next week. Looking through our children’s eyes may be one of the biggest adventures we can be a part of. In our community of children, families and educators at Bixby School, our hearts and minds hold true to one of the hallmarks of progressive education: The whole child- engaged, challenged, nurtured and supported through their eyes and us adults committed to their worlds.