Beginning school in early August has its challenges, one being the Arizona heat. We’ve been lucky so far that the temperatures have hovered under 100, allowing us to be outside for midday recess. Our policy is if it’s 100 degrees we will offer an indoor/outdoor option. When it hits 110, we keep everyone inside, except for a few short minutes during major transition times.
What I’ve noticed this week is children mostly utilizing the excellent shade options on our playground. There’s always a group playing with sand and water in the sand circle, creating rivers and canals that lead to imaginary worlds. Others gather boisterously on the climbing structure, escaping from bad guys, pirates, and other villains. Some students push trucks around under the huge ficus trees. A few sit at picnic tables in a shady area by the basketball court talking casually with friends. Generally, a crew requests time in Gwen’s Castle, eagerly awaiting a chance to climb a tree or play with the big logs, bricks, and rocks. Still others find new ways to stay cool in the shade.
A small gathering in the dirt under trees by the basketball court caught my attention. I wandered over and started asking questions. After reminding them that all digging needs to be done in the sand circle area, I stepped back and watched. They worked individually or in pairs, creating little living spaces for their pet rocks. One creation included a tiny arch made of twigs and small leaves that was part of a miniature garden. They were careful to just move the soft dirt around, instead of digging, to adhere to our digging policy. It was a fluid arrangement, allowing a safe space for those who wanted to work quietly alongside collaborators. In the dirt they were peacefully laying a foundation for their small rock community.
No doubt, the play will continue in some form in the days ahead, especially during this warmer season. Additionally, on a deeper level it seems they are setting the stage for a place built on inclusion, listening, honoring, and receiving each other. As teachers our job is to notice the details, watch out for the children who need comfort, gentle guidance, and help with entering in. The work of nurturing conscious future citizens of the planet begins in these small moments. I know it won’t always be as peaceful as it was with the dirt builders this week, and recognize the learning opportunities that come with conflicts. Yet I appreciate the glimpse of possibility offered in that moment as we start our 46th year of Awakening Seed.