Monday, January 25, 2016

Stewards of Nature


 Life's most persistent and urgent question is, "What are you doing 

for others?"     Martin Luther King

This is the everyday work of being in a community.

We talk daily about the need for compassion for 

ourselves and each other.The essence of Dr. 

King's words are innate in each child. They are 

born wanting to connect to others. Navigating 

the feelings that arise each day is how we spend 

our time.

Martin Luther King is a really good person because he brought all

the white skin kids to the brown skin kids. 

As we prepared for MLK day, and developed a plan for outreach, the teachers asked the children to 

share what they knew to be true regarding Dr. King and his quest for equality. Many children had 

facts and some even had a sense of  what was happening during that period in history.  We shared 

stories of Dr. King as a child and then we talked about "outcluding". This is a feeling that the 

children can relate to at five and six. They are also beginning to compare themselves to others 

and identify similarities and differences (red hair, brown eyes, gender, quiet, loud, likes bugs, can 

climb trees, lost teeth). As we sit and share picture books and talk with the children 

watch their faces try to understand the implications of these stories. 

The children do realize however that it hurts to be outcluded and if Dr. King traveled around the 

country asking for all people to be included then he must be a "hero".

Martin Luther King is a hero because he brought white and black together. 

Martin Luther King marches with the people.

One day during project circle we developed a plan of service and outreach in honor of Martin Luther King. We launched the conversation by sharing our observations of the children stewarding the animals that live on our campus. 

Caroline: When I drop food outside animals eat it.

Charlie: We saw a turtle in the forest.

Scarlett: We could make a birdhouse with a big hole for a big bird like an owl. 

Caroline: We could pick some grass from our house for animals.

Zoey: We could put some bird seed out so we could open the windows and see them eating the birdseed…like on the other side of the window.

Shayna: Owls might need some homes in trees and birds might see more homes in trees so they could have some more children.

Cal: We could create a bird habitat outside of our window.

Shayna: One day we looked out the window and saw a whole bunch of crows in our cul-de-sac.

Cal: A peloton of crows,….ha ha ha

Penelope: Like a flock of birds.

Eve: Animals that don’t have homes and are really poor. We could make a little shelter out of wood. 

Charlie: We could make a hummingbird house.

Zoey:  We might want to plant flowers for animals to eat.

Cal: We need to make a plan for these houses.

Anna: I learned that bird houses needed different size holes depending how big that they are.

Zack: We need a habitat for animals that are hunted.

As plans for the day were developed by the children, Cal wrote a journal entry that tied our conversations about Martin Luther King and our intentions for service together.  

Animals are important to me. We are creatures like them.

Detailed plans for the bird sanctuary outside of our window.

"The time is always right to do what is right. " Martin Luther King

The children were most interested in helping the animals whose presence was seen each day. They decided to make a sanctuary for birds and squirrels and also to build a shelter for small animals and place it in the outdoor classroom with carrots. Our intention was to continue to observe the habitats that we create and study the animals who come.

We rolled pinecones in fat and then birdseed.  A. found most of these pinecones in her grandfather's backyard.

Maubry and Ross help P. and others string orange slices to hang in the sanctuary. Z. strings cranberries and cheerios. 

Cheri gathered materials from our Materials Resource Center (similar to Reggio children's Remida). Each bird feeder only uses materials found in the center. E. is always in the studio and likes to solve the problems that arise. 

Theresa and J. spend most of the morning supporting the effort to cut, thread and string orange slices.  B. is focused on his efforts to drill the holes to string a bird feeder.

Meanwhile in the kitchen, another group of children are baking cookies for the sanctuary. These cookies involve birdseed and gelatin. Leigh, Z's mother, suggests that we shake some pepper on our dough, so the squirrels do not binge on the cookies. She told us that squirrels do have the ability to taste but birds do not which is why  the pepper works as a deterrent to the squirrels.     

 A group of children decide to gather sticks from outside and natural materials from the  Center and begin to create large animal shelters to be placed in the outdoor classroom with carrots.

 Ross and Elizabeth head to the Forest with a few children to retrieve large branches for bird sanctuary. Z. uses his ever present scarf as a tool for carrying a branch that is twice his size.

After the death and burial of our two squirrel babies, we invited a squirrel rehabilitator friend of Cheri's to come into the classroom and share Punkin with us as well as her experiences and stories caring for hurt or sick animals.

MLK is the hero of the day but Punkin is the star (Kindergarten royalty). He is an Achondroplastic Dwarf squirrel (which is the genetic equivalent to Down's syndrome.  This occurs in all creatures but is fairly common in squirrels.

Pat was a compelling storyteller and captured her audience's attention and endearment for over an hour and a half. Let us never doubt again the attention span of these children or their intense love for animals.

Pat's stories of devotion to these defenseless animals inspired all of us to remain attuned to the needs of people, animals and all  living things that we so often overlook in our daily lives.  Pat quickly connected with the children in that her love and kindness for these creatures was sincere and profound.

The next day we spent hours with Pippin erecting the large tree branches from the forest in a way that would not interfere with the fire escape but allowed the Kindergarten to observe the animals visiting the sanctuary. 

Each Kindergartener had the opportunity to hang garlands, orange slices, bird feeders, cookies or pinecones on the sanctuary. The first customer was a squirrel who was both greedy and pesky. Eventually he had his fill of the smaorgasboard and in his absence many birds began to take note of the sanctuary.

Pippin texted this picture  of the sanctuary as the snow fell on Friday. Notice the four birds resting below it. It was erected at the perfect time. The Sabot at Stony Point birds and squirrels will host their own gratitude circle for the Kindergarteners, living Martin Luther King's message in their backyard.


  1. It is so important to nurture children's capacity for empathy in ways such as this. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” These kindergarten children are certainly starting to live. Thank you, Marys and Cheri.

  2. What a treat for the animals! I was surprised and happy to see this when I got back from my field trip that day- it is so much better than what I imagined!