For the second week in a row, light shining through glass jars caught my eye. This time it was in the PreK, after a weekend rearranging frenzy by its teaching duo. A science corner was set up with all kinds of natural objects, including a large rock occupying almost an entire shelf. The loft was moved closer to the windows, opening up the room in new ways. To accommodate the influx of emerging writers, an entire table was devoted to journals, equipped with an assortment of writing tools. When I walked into the room to check it out, one passionate writer was having a moment of disappointment because someone had inadvertently taken her spot. She wanted to be in on the action at the journal table. Her teacher quickly made space for her elsewhere so her writing enthusiasm would not be interrupted. The invitations for learning were everywhere and there was not one child who wasn’t passionately engaged.
As I looked around the room, one area in particular reached out and invited my attention. It was a medium-sized white shelf in front the windows. On the shelves were glass jars filled with collections of all sorts of small objects, including random puzzle pieces, beads, jewels, nuts and bolts, wooden rings, plastic ties, pom-poms, shells, buttons and pasta. Each collection has a function and will, no doubt, be used by preschoolers for work and play I can only imagine. What stood out in my mind as I studied the collection of collections was how beautiful the whole assemblage was. It made me think of recent words I’ve heard from a scientist about the interplay of science and beauty. Doris Taylor, a scientist whose life work has been devoted to the study of stem cells, described the beauty of the human heart (http://www.onbeing.org/program/stem-cells-untold-stories/178). G. H. Hardy, in A Mathematician’s Apology, had this to say about mathematics and beauty: “The mathematician’s patterns, like the painter’s or the poet’s must be beautiful; the ideas, like the colors or the words must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in this world for ugly mathematics.”
The jars filled with elements of everyday school life caused me to pause and appreciate their beauty. The collection is a representative of the “A” in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics), which is a focus of our work this year. John O’Donohue, the late Irish poet, wrote these words in Divine Beauty: The Invisible Embrace: “To behold beauty dignifies your life; it heals you and calls you out beyond the smallness of your own self-limitation to experience new horizons. To experience beauty is to have your life enlarged.” It makes sense to offer this expansive invitation to our thinkers and makers of tomorrow.